At least 15 people were killed and 60 others injured in an Israeli airstrike that hit ambulances at the entrance to Gaza’s largest hospital on Friday, according to the latest tally from the Hamas-controlled Palestinian enclave’s health ministry.

Israel confirmed the strike, underlining that its target was a vehicle used by a “terrorist cell of Hamas”.

Ambulances “transported many injured people to be treated in Egypt,” said Ashraf al-Kudra, a spokesman for the health ministry in the Gaza Strip.

An AFP correspondent said he saw many dead and injured next to a damaged ambulance at the entrance to Al Shifa hospital, where thousands of displaced people have taken refuge. In footage broadcast by AFP television, civilians can be seen carrying the injured. Some were lying on the ground covered in blood, apparently hurled by the shock wave onto cars parked on the side of the road.

“Deeply shocked,” said the head of the World Health Organization. “We say it again: patients, medical staff, facilities and ambulances must be protected at all times. Always,” said Tedros Andanom Ghebreyesus, in his post on the X platform (formerly Twitter).

The UN humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territories, Lynne Hastings, also expressed deep concern that the strike targeted “patients who were being evacuated for their safety”.

Hamas’ health ministry says 16 of Gaza’s 35 hospitals have been put out of business, either because they were bombed or because they ran out of fuel for their generators.

Since Wednesday, dozens of wounded Palestinians have crossed the border into Egypt as the Gaza Strip is pounded relentlessly by the Israeli Armed Forces (IDF).

The Israeli government has vowed to wipe out Hamas after militants from the Palestinian Islamist group invaded southern Israel on October 7, killing about 1,400 people and kidnapping more than 240 others and taking them to the Gaza Strip. Israel’s military retaliation has claimed the lives of more than 9,250 Palestinians, according to the health ministry of the Hamas-controlled Palestinian enclave.