Tuesday briefing: What next in Gaza as Israel ends its al-Shifa hospital siege

<span>Palestinians inspect damages at Al Shifa Hospital after Israeli forces withdrew from the hospital and the area around it following a two-week operation, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Gaza City April 1, 2024.</span><span>Photograph: Dawoud Abu Alkas/Reuters</span>
Palestinians inspect damages at Al Shifa Hospital after Israeli forces withdrew from the hospital and the area around it following a two-week operation, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Gaza City April 1, 2024.Photograph: Dawoud Abu Alkas/Reuters

Good morning. After a 14-day siege, Israel’s military has said it has withdrawn from al-Shifa hospital in Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have described the raid as a success and claim to have obtained intelligence and killed or detained hundreds of Hamas fighters, including a high-ranking Hamas leader. Israeli forces have long contended that Hamas fighters were using the hospital as a base, though the militant group has denied these allegations.

While the IDF has said that it was conducting “precise operational activity”, witnesses said that Gaza City’s main hospital has mostly been destroyed and the Gaza health ministry has said the hospital is now “completely out of service”. The UN health agency has said that several hospital patients had died and dozens were put at risk. Video footage shows residents walking near the charred and damaged building. At least 300 bodies have been found so far according to Gaza’s civil defense agency, though it will be difficult to determine the full count due to the destruction of the surrounding neighbourhood by Israeli bulldozers.

Since the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the hospital, there have also been escalations overnight in the region. Seven members of a food aid charity, including citizens from the UK, Australia, Poland, Palestine and a dual national from the US and Canada, were killed in an Israeli strike in central Gaza, according to World Central Kitchen. Several of the workers wore protective body armour with the charity’s logo. The Israeli military has said it is investigating the situation. Meanwhile, Iran has vowed to respond after Israeli war planes destroyed the Iranian consulate in Damascus, killing at least 11 people, including a senior commander in the al-Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. It all comes as Benjamin Netanyahu vows to press ahead with the planned military invasion of Rafah, the southern city housing more than half of Gaza’s population.

For today’s newsletter, I’m taking a look back at what has happened over the last two weeks in the conflict. That’s right after the headlines.

Five big stories

  1. US news | Donald Trump posted a $175m bond in his New York civil fraud case, avoiding asset seizures by state authorities that could have hobbled his business empire. The presidential hopeful was found liable on 16 February for fraudulently inflating his net worth by billions of dollars to secure better loan and insurance terms.

  2. Labour | Four in five Labour members back Keir Starmer and believe he will win a majority at the next election, according to private polling that shows the transformation of the party’s grassroots. Two polls shared with the Guardian demonstrate how the composition of Labour’s membership has changed since Starmer was elected leader in April 2020.

  3. Health | Patients are dying needlessly every year due to vulnerable Britons with heart problems not being given antibiotics when they visit the dentist, doctors have said.

  4. Levelling up | The Conservatives have been accused of failing to live up to their ambitious agenda for Britain’s regions, as Guardian analysis shows no progress has been made on half of their levelling up targets. These include education, skills and wellbeing, which have stagnated, and local pride, housing and health, which have deteriorated in the last two years.

  5. Economy | Inflation in shop prices in the UK has eased to the lowest level for more than two years after retailers cut prices on Easter treats, clothing and electrical goods amid a slowdown in spending by consumers. Industry figures show prices rose at an annual rate of 1.3% in March, down from a rate of 2.5% in February.

In depth: Is Israel at risk of starting a ‘forever war’?

Gaza’s ministry of health has said that there were about 3,000 people inside the hospital when the IDF’s unexpected and rapid raid began on 18 March, despite previously claiming that they had completely destroyed Hamas’s networks in northern Gaza.

The military told people living in the surrounding area to leave and head south to al-Mawasi, near Rafah – the overcrowded southern city where Israel has been planning a ground invasion for a number of weeks.

Though the IDF has said that civilians, medical staff and patients were evacuated, many were initially left barricaded in the hospital with little food and water. Witnesses also told the BBC that gunfire and airstrikes have been endangering medics and hundreds of people sheltering on the ground.

The hospital’s main buildings have been reduced to “to burned-out husks” and the health ministry has reported the stench of decomposing bodies in the rubble.

World Health Organization director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote on X: “Among the patients are four children, lacking necessary means of care – no diapers, urine bags, water to clean wounds,” adding, “Many have infected wounds and are dehydrated. Since yesterday only one bottle of water remains for every 15 people.”

Rear Adm Daniel Hagari, the top Israeli military spokesperson, has denied that any civilians had been harmed by Israeli forces and blamed Hamas for the destruction of the hospital, claiming that fighters had locked themselves inside, though the armed group denies this and accuses the IDF of war crimes.

Al-Shifa has not been the only hospital that has been under fire – Israeli forces also stormed Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, the Gaza health ministry said, leaving thousands of people trapped inside. Many non-combatants were caught in violence, with doctors telling the BBC they were detained, blindfolded and beaten during the raid.

Al-Amal hospital was also under fire to the point where the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that it had ceased to function as a result of the fighting, leaving only 10 of 36 hospitals in the Gaza Strip partly operational. Even before this latest raid began, most hospitals in Gaza had been put out of action by the war with aid agencies reporting an “unimaginable” state of crisis.


Will Israel invade Rafah?

The Israeli government has given the green light to the IDF’s plans to invade Rafah, shrugging off warnings from allies that an operation in the city that is housing a million and a half displaced Palestinians would be a mistake. Benjamin Netanyahu has said that nothing would stand in the way of the plans, “Not American pressure, not any other pressure.” Nonetheless, the White House is hoping to stave off a military incursion during a planned meeting where US and Israeli officials may discuss potential alternatives to the invasion.

Despite the warnings from the White House and apprehension about the invasion of Rafah, the Washington Post reported that the US still quietly approved the transfer of billions of dollars in bombs and fighter jets to Israel. The Biden administration has made it clear, despite pressure, that limiting or ending military aid is off the table, which may explain why Netanyahu confidently ignores Washington’s advice.


Political division in Israel

As the war continues to rage on in Gaza, the political divides in Israel faced by Netanyahu have once again come to the fore. Over the weekend tens of thousands of protesters mobilised with the families of hostages to call for the prime minister’s removal. Police used cannon loaded with “skunk” water to disperse protesters but the attempts to deter them have not worked, with a four-day protest outside the Israeli parliament in tents underway. All over the country, protesters demanded the release of the 130 Israeli hostages and admonished Netanyahu as an “obstacle” to a deal.

Simultaneously, separate protests were taking place in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighbourhood calling for the conscription of Haredi men into the IDF, who are currently exempt from military service. The dispute poses the biggest political threat to Netanyahu as his right-wing alliance of secular and ultra-Orthodox parties fail to agree on whether the state should continue to allow ultra-Orthodox young men to avoid conscription.

As the violence in Gaza continues with Palestinians forced into a famine, and Netanyahu clings on to power, it looks as though the grinding conflict could be slipping into a “forever war”.

What else we’ve been reading

  • “If I must go, I must abandon my tradition, my ancestors’ legacy – and all of the memories here” – on the cultural and environmental cost of Indonesia’s brand new city, Nusantara. Nazia Parveen, acting deputy editor, newsletters

  • What makes some celebrities immune to cancellation? With a new Michael Jackson musical opening in London and the alarming news R Kelly still has 5 million monthly listeners on Spotify, Tim Jonze investigates the unclear rules of “who gets ostracised and who doesn’t”. Charlie Lindlar, newsletters team

  • Online shopping is something I have grown to dislike – returning purchases is not only bad for the environment but also incredibly tedious … and then there is the usual bingo of whether the item has been damaged after being left “safely” behind a plant pot. So this week’s big idea column has definite appeal, on why going shopping IRL is due a comeback! Nazia

  • A fresh coat of paint in your home office? “Sober spring”? Learn a new language? 17 Guardian writers have teamed up to offer their simple ways to reset your life in spring. Charlie

  • Could Ro Khanna be the future of the Democratic Party and bridge the gap between the United States faded industrial might and its digital future? This piece in the Atlantic takes a detailed look at the Silicon Valley congressman who started his political career working for Barack Obama. Nazia


Football | Leeds retook second place after Crysencio Summerville’s late penalty and Dan James’s spectacular strike gave them a 3-1 home win over Hull. John Eustace’s wait for a win as Blackburn manager came to an end in emphatic fashion as relegation-threatened Rovers hammered Sunderland 5-1. Rotherham staved off relegation for at least another week after they battled to a 2-1 home win over Millwall.

Rugby league | Ikram Butt, the first Muslim to represent England’s rugby league side has joined the growing number of calls for the Rugby Football League to follow the example of other sports and introduce pauses allowing players observing Ramadan to break their fasts “as a matter of urgency”.

Rugby union | World Rugby’s latest flurry of law change recommendations have been criticised as “madness”. Rob Baxter, the director of rugby at Exeter Chiefs, argues that constant tinkering with the game’s laws and interpretations is confusing new spectators and is undermining the sport’s ambitions for global growth.

The front pages

The Guardian leads with “Tories accused as zero progress on half of levelling up goals laid bare”. There are more bad headlines for the Conservatives across the front pages, with the Telegraph accusing the Tories of a “Stealth tax raid on 1.6 million pensioners” and the i saying “Economy will not be enough to save Sunak, Tories warned”. The Mirror leads with a “GP appointment scandal”, under the headline “Doctor won’t see you now…”

Elsewhere, the Times reports “Iranian general killed as ‘Israel bombs consulate’”. The Financial Times says “Turkish opposition’s emphatic win in big cities deals heavy blow to Erdogan”.

The Mail leads with “Arrest me! Defiance of JK Rowling as she dares police over new Scottish hate crime law”. Finally, the Sun reports on the unveiling of a pink and purple Union Jack on the Team GB kit, under the headline “Union Joke”.

Today in Focus

What is Reddit really worth?

The popular social media site has never made a profit and relies on an army of unpaid moderators to keep order. So what difference will a stock market listing make? Alex Hern reports.

Cartoon of the day | Martin Rowson

The Upside

A bit of good news to remind you that the world’s not all bad

“MasterChef has become that rare TV institution that shows no signs of going off the boil. If anything, it has only grown, like a mythical perfect souffle,” writes the Guardian’s Rebecca Nicholson in praise of the cooking competition show as it enters its 20th season.

As well as its track record of producing food stars like Thomasina Miers, MasterChef has a secret ingredient, Rebecca thinks: sticking to its format. “It is as familiar as a trusted recipe for a Victoria sponge”.

Sign up here for a weekly roundup of The Upside, sent to you every Sunday

Bored at work?

And finally, the Guardian’s puzzles are here to keep you entertained throughout the day. Until tomorrow.