Calls mounted on Thursday to conduct an independent investigation into the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza that was attacked on Tuesday night, leaving 471 people dead and another 314 injured after the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem confirmed in a news conference that the hospital had been bombed on the weekend and after that, it had received three warnings to evacuate.
Meanwhile, trucks laden with aid for Palestinians in Gaza remained at the Rafah border, waiting for the gates to open and pass into Palestine. Pakistan, too, has sent aid but has ruled out sending troops.
A suspected airstrike by Israel targeted Palestinian refugees in a car park adjacent to the main building of the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in central Gaza. The Anglican Church runs the hospital. The attack was so severe that it killed 471 people and injured another 314. An attack on the same hospital on Saturday had damaged two floors of one of its buildings.
In his news conference in East Jerusalem, the Archbishop of Jerusalem Dr Hosam Naoum was asked whether they had received any warnings about the attack.
"The facts on the ground that, you know, we have, not only at Al-Ahli Hospital that received a warning for evacuation," he said, adding that the warning was the same as the one for all people in northern Gaza to evacuate, including 15 other hospitals in the narrow strip.
He added that they took an ethical stance of not leaving the hospital but said that they had the moral obligation to notify everybody who's been in the hospital, whether they were civilians or staff, that they had received a warning to evacuate the hospital.
When pressed on the nature, method and frequency of the warning, Dr Naoum confirmed that the hospital had been struck just days before Tuesday's strike, which damaged the fourth floor of one building and the roof of the top floor of their new diagnostics centre in the hospital.
Another attack struck the ultrasound and mammography room on the second floor.
On the warnings, he said they came after the Israeli military announced an evacuation of north Gaza to the south of Gaza ahead of a ground invasion.
"Since the decision was made about the evacuation of north Gaza to south Gaza, we received three warnings. So, beginning, I think, Saturday, Sunday and Monday," he said, adding that most of these warnings were communicated via telephone by the authorities.
Dr Naoum said that the authorities have the telephone numbers of the hospital's board and other means to contact them. However, he clarified that the warnings to evacuate the hospital. Initially, he suggested that the warnings were of a general nature but later said that they were specific.
Asked if they received calls after the strike, Dr Naoum said many people called them, including diplomats and the authorities. But when asked whether the Israeli government had called them, he categorically said no.
Asked if Israel carried out Tuesday's strike, Dr Naom said they only know what happened.
"What we know is what we saw on the TV. We are people of the cloth, we are people of the Church . . . we are not military experts," he said. "Who did this is not for us to determine or to give judgment, but let people see what is happening on the ground, and we hope that people will come to the conclusion: enough with this war."
He, however, disclosed that the earlier strike on the hospital was carried out by Israeli missiles, adding that the hospital and church are a sanctuary.
Dr Naoum hoped that a humanitarian corridor to Gaza and a ceasefire could be established and thanked those who had "stood in solidarity".
Earlier, the Archbishop of Canterbury in a statement denounced the attack: "I join my Anglican brothers and sisters in Gaza, Israel and the West Bank in their profound mourning after the atrocious attack on the Anglican-run Al-Ahli Hospital yesterday, which follows so closely on from an attack on the same hospital on Saturday. This is a hospital I have visited, and whose staff I have prayed with.”
He continued: “This atrocity violates the sanctity and dignity of human life. It is a violation of humanitarian law, which is clear that hospitals, doctors and patients must be protected.” He urged “restraint” in “apportioning responsibility before all the facts are clear”.
Meanwhile, with the US backing Israel's version of events over the attack that it was a misfiring rocket launched by the Palestinian armed group Islamic Jihad, there have been growing calls for an independent probe into the matter.
Aid at a stone's throw from refugees
Hundreds of trucks laden with critical supplies such as water, food, and medicines remained stuck at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Palestine even though US President Joe Biden said he had reached a deal with Egyptian President Abel Fattah al-Sisi on a plan to ensure "sustainable delivery of aid" for Palestinian refugees.
Initially, they had agreed to let 20 trucks through to supply some two million people who had run out of water, food and fuel.
United Nations Humanitarian Chief Martin Griffiths has estimated that there is a need for at least 100 trucks to cross into Gaza daily to meet the needs of the displaced population.
But the trucks remained still, with humanitarian workers and truckers warning that perishable goods were starting to spoil standing in the Sinai heat.
Egypt had said that they did not close the border, rather, four Israeli air strikes had effectively kept it shut.
Last week, Israel laid siege to Gaza and cut off access to essential amenities such as water, electricity, gas and food. Gaza is completely dependent on inflows to manage daily life.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres is due in Cairo later on Thursday after he called for lifting the siege and allowing emergency aid to flow.
Pakistan will not send the army to Palestine
Islamabad, meanwhile, reiterated its call for the cessation of all hostilities in the Middle East while announcing that it had dispatched emergency aid for Palestine.
During the regular weekly briefing at the Foreign Office in Islamabad on Thursday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said that an urgent ministerial meeting of the executive committee of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) co-convened by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia was underlined that the core issue was the failure to implement the two-state solution. She added that the OIC joint communique reflected consensus amongst the Muslim nations of lifting the siege and establishing humanitarian corridors for the people of Gaza.
She added that Pakistan had reaffirmed unwavering support for Palestinian self-determination and advocated for the establishment of a secure, contiguous, and sovereign Palestinian state.
"We believe that the international community needs to work together to ensure that peace prevails, ceasefire is attained, and humanitarian assistance is allowed to go into Gaza."
Baloch said that Pakistan was sending a chartered aircraft laden with 100 tonnes of aid comprising tents, blankets and essential medicines. These supplies will be transported to Egypt for onward distribution in Palestine.
She also communicated Pakistan's disappointment with the results of the United Nations Security Council debate, where the United States vetoed a move to lift the siege and to allow aid into Gaza even as it brokered a "sustainable aid" plan between Israel and Egypt.
"We believe that the United Nations Security Council should play its designated role in bringing an immediate end to the ongoing situation, the bombardment in Gaza and the continuing blockade that is creating a humanitarian catastrophe for the Palestinian people."
She also signalled Pakistan's backing for Turkiye's proposed solution to designate guarantor states to broker peace.
On a question that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had singled out Pakistan as a threat, Baloch said Pakistan has a peaceful posture.
"It has always called for peace and dialogue with all countries, including our neighbouring countries, she said, asserting, "Pakistan has never initiated a war against any country."
"So, such baseless accusations are completely rejected," she stated.
Asked if the military would be dispatched to fight Israel and protect Palestinians, Baloch simply answered: "We have no such plans".