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GAZA CITY: Hamas said Friday an Israeli strike on the territory’s largest hospital killed 13 people.

“Thirteen martyrs and dozens wounded in an Israeli strike on Al-Shifa compound today” in central Gaza City, a government statement said, giving a toll AFP was not immediately able to independently verify.

Al-Shifa hospital director Mohammad Abu Salmiya said “Israeli tanks fired on Al-Shifa hospital”, while the Israeli military did not offer an immediate comment.

Israel had reported heavy fighting on Thursday near the hospital, saying it had killed dozens of fighters and destroyed tunnels that are key to Hamas’s capacity to fight.

The Israeli army has repeatedly accused Hamas of using hospitals, particularly Al-Shifa, to coordinate their attacks against the army and also as hideouts for its commanders.

Hamas authorities and doctors deny the accusations.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel retaliated with an aerial bombing and ground campaign that the health ministry in the Gaza Strip says has killed more than 10,800 people, mostly civilians and many of them children.

Abu Mohammad, 32, had taken refuge in the hospital along with 15 relatives after the bombardments of his neighbourhood in the northeast part of Gaza City.

“There is no safe place left. The army hit Al-Shifa. I don’t know what to do,” he said.

“There is shooting… at the hospital. We are afraid to go out.”

Witnesses said tanks had surrounded some other hospitals in Gaza City as fierce fighting continued, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee to the south of the territory over the past few weeks.

AFPTV footage showed a fireball and smoke rising over the city at dawn. Early Friday sounds of apparent gunfire and explosions could be heard.

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