Nov. 3 (UPI) -- As Israeli forces encircled Gaza City on Friday, the military confirmed that its aircraft struck an ambulance convoy outside al-Shifa hospital, saying it was being used by Hamas.
The Palestinian Health Ministry, controlled by Hamas, said the ambulances were transporting injured patients to Egypt's Rafah border crossing in southern Gaza.
"An IDF aircraft struck an ambulance that was identified by forces as being used by a Hamas terrorist cell in close proximity to their position in the battle zone," the IDF said in a statement. "A number of Hamas terrorist operatives were killed in the strike. We have information which demonstrates that Hamas' method of operation is to transfer terror operatives and weapons in ambulances."
Witnesses reported dozens of casualties from the strike.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Society posted images of one of its ambulances hit by the IDF in the strike outside of al-Shifa hospital on X.
The PRCS also posted another image of damaged ambulances it said were hit by Israel on Rashid Street in western Gaza.
"At precisely 16:30, Israeli occupying forces launched an airstrike on Rashid Street in the western part of Gaza. Their target was a group of ambulance vehicles returning from a mission to transport injured individuals to the Rafah border, which included an ambulance affiliated with the PRCS," PRCS wrote on X.
The strikes occurred as the Gaza health ministry reported 9,257 people have been killed by Israeli attacks so far, including 3,826 children.
And it happened as Gaza hospitals were critically low on fuel needed to keep life-saving machines and surgeries functional as casualties from Israel's heavy bombing of Gaza continued to surge.
Several developments were happening simultaneously Friday.
As the Biden administration called for a humanitarian pause in the war, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israeli leaders reiterating U.S. support for Israel but also urging more care be taken to avoid civilian casualties.
As he left the U.S. for Tel Aviv Blinken said, "When I see a Palestinian child -- a boy, a girl -- pulled from the rubble of a collapsed building, that hits me in the gut as much as seeing a child from Israel or anywhere else."
According to the State Department Blinken is urging Israel to "defend itself against terrorism consistent with international humanitarian law."
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrah said in his first public remarks since the war started that his forces are exchanging fire with Israel's military along the northern border with Lebanon designed to keep portions of the IDF tied up to lessen the burden on Hamas in Gaza.
"The Lebanese front has lessened a large part of the forces that were going to escalate the attack on Gaza," Nasrallah said. "Some in Lebanon say that we are taking a risk, it's true. But this risk is part of a beneficial, correct calculation."
He said the U.S. aircraft carrier fleets deployed as a deterrent doesn't intimidate Hezbollah. "Your fleets that you threaten us with, we are prepared for them as well," he said.
The Hezbollah leader called the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel a successful operation that was 100% Palestinian.
He said it was "a big event to shake this oppressive ... occupying, usurping Zionist regime and its supporters in Washington and London."
The first groups of American citizens that left Gaza through the Rafah crossing were welcomed by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo Friday afternoon.
Israel expelled thousands of Palestinian workers who began to re-enter Gaza Friday after being held in detention in the aftermath of the Hama Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there would be no ceasefire until Hamas frees all hostages abducted Oct. 7 from Israel.
At a Friday press conference, Gaza's health ministry described horrific conditions for civilians there as it urgently appealed for fuel to keep hospitals running on the 28th day of the Israeli bombardment.
The Israeli attack is in response to a surprise attack from Gaza by Hamas Oct. 7 that killed approximately 1,100 civilians and more than 300 soldiers in Israel as more than 200 hostages were taken into Gaza by Hamas.
The Gaza health ministry said Friday main electrical generators in the Al-Shifa Medical Complex and the Indonesian Hospital have stopped due to lack of fuel. Secondary generators are operating to keep emergency services working while electricity has been cut in the rest of the hospital departments.
"We appeal to all international institutions to intervene urgently to supply the Al-Shifa Medical Complex and the Indonesian Hospital with fuel before an imminent disaster occurs," the Gaza Ministry of Health said in a Facebook statement.
The ministry said Israel has deliberately targeted hospitals and other medical facilities.
"The Israeli occupation deliberately targeted 102 health institutions and put 16 hospitals and 32 primary care centers out of service as a result of the targeting or failure to bring in fuel," the Gaza health ministry said.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said in a statement that Israeli troops have surrounded Gaza in the northern part of the strip from several directions.
He said fuel would be allowed into Gaza through the Egyptian Rafah crossing if Israel determines that hospitals have run out of fuel.
In a separate statement the IDF said its forces worked with the Israeli Securities Authority and eliminated a Hamas battalion commander during overnight operations.
"Mustafa Dalul directed combat against IDF forces and held key positions in Hamas' Gaza City Brigade," it said. "Our ground, aerial and naval forces continue to operate to eliminate Hamas' chain of command and terrorist capabilities."
The IDF also said Friday its troops have uncovered tunnel shafts used by Hamas, rigged them with explosives and "neutralized Hamas's terrorist tunnels during special operations inside Gaza."
Gaza's health ministry called on Turkey to "intervene urgently to protect the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital, supply it with fuel, and save 10,000 cancer patients."
The ministry thanked Egypt for allowing "the exit of dozens of wounded and their companions during the last three days."
The ministry said at the Friday press conference that "Israeli violations against the health system led to the death of 136 health personnel and the destruction of 25 ambulances."