MEDICS, patients and displaced people are fleeing from the main hospital in central Gaza as the fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants draws closer, witnesses said.

Losing the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital would be another major blow to a health system shattered by three months of war.

Doctors Without Borders and other aid groups have withdrawn from the hospital in Deir al-Balah in recent days, saying it is too dangerous.

That move spread panic among people sheltering there, causing many to join the hundreds of thousands who have fled to the south of the besieged territory.

Israel says it has largely wrapped up major operations in northern Gaza and is now focusing on the central region and the southern city of Khan Younis.

Israeli officials have said the fighting will continue for many more months as the army seeks to dismantle Hamas and return scores of hostages taken during the militant group’s October 7 attack that triggered the war.

READ MORE: At least 35 dead in Gaza strikes as Netanyahu says war will continue for months

The offensive has already killed more than 22,000 Palestinians, devastated vast swathes of the Gaza Strip, displaced nearly 85% of its population of 2.3 million and left a quarter of its residents facing starvation.

It has also threatened to ignite a wider war with Lebanon’s Hezbollah and other Iran-backed militant groups allied with Hamas.

Later on Monday, a Lebanese security official said that an Israeli air strike in southern Lebanon killed a senior commander of the militant group Hezbollah.

The assassination came as clashes between Iran-backed Hezbollah militants and the Israeli military along the Lebanon-Israel border have intensified.

It comes nearly a week after an Israeli strike killed top official with the militant Palestinian group Hamas in Beirut, and two days after Hezbollah launched a wide-ranging missile attack on an Israeli military base in Mount Meron in north Israel in retaliation.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken is back in the region this week to stop the conflict from broadening.

The US, which has provided crucial military and diplomatic support for the offensive, has called on Israel to take greater measures to spare civilians but has joined it in rejecting international calls for a ceasefire.

Tens of thousands of people have sought shelter in Gaza’s hospitals, which are also struggling to treat dozens of people wounded each day in Israeli strikes.

Only 13 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are even partially functioning, according to the UN humanitarian office.

Omar al-Darawi, an employee at Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital, said the facility has been struck multiple times in recent days.

He said thousands of people left after the aid groups pulled out, and that patients have been concentrated on one floor so the remaining doctors can tend to them more easily.

“We have large numbers of wounded who can’t move” he said. “They need special care which is unavailable.”

More dead and wounded arrive each day, as Israeli forces advance in central Gaza following heavy air strikes. Early on Monday, the health ministry said 73 bodies and 99 wounded people were brought to the hospital in just the last 24 hours.

World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said staff who visited on Sunday saw “sickening scenes of people of all ages being treated on blood-streaked floors and in chaotic corridors”.

He added: “The bloodbath in Gaza must end.”

The situation is even more dire in northern Gaza, which Israeli forces cut off from the rest of the territory in late October.

The National: Israeli strikes in central Gaza killed at least 35 people on Sunday, hospital officials said (Tsafrir Abayov/AP)

Entire areas have been demolished, and hundreds of thousands of people have fled, while those who remain face severe shortages of food, water and medical supplies.

The WHO said late on Sunday it has not been able to deliver supplies to northern Gaza in 12 days.

Israel blames Hamas for civilian casualties because the group operates in heavily populated residential areas. The military says it has killed some 8,000 militants, without providing evidence, and that 176 of its own soldiers have been killed in the offensive.

Blinken, who met with the leaders of Jordan and Qatar on Sunday, once again spoke of the need for Israel to adjust its military operations to minimise harm to civilians and allow more aid into the territory. But his main focus appears to be preventing the war from spreading.

“This is a conflict that could easily metastasise, causing even more insecurity and even more suffering,” Blinken told reporters.

The killing of a senior Hamas leader in a strike in Beirut last week ratcheted up tensions along the Israeli-Lebanese border, where Israel and Hezbollah, a Hamas ally, have been regularly trading fire since the start of the war.

A Hezbollah rocket barrage hit a sensitive air traffic base in northern Israel on Saturday in one of the biggest attacks in three months of low-intensity fighting along the border.

The militant group said was an “initial response” to the killing of Hamas’ deputy political leader Saleh Arouri.

Israel has mostly sought to limit the fighting in its north. Hezbollah’s military capabilities are far superior to those of Hamas. But Israeli leaders have said their patience is wearing thin, and that if the tensions cannot be resolved through diplomacy, they are prepared to go to war.

Hezbollah began firing rockets shortly after the October 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel triggered the war in Gaza.

Hamas and other militants killed about 1,200 people that day, mostly civilians, and took some 250 people hostage, more than 100 of whom were released during a ceasefire in November.

Hezbollah has said its attacks, which have driven tens of thousands of Israelis from their homes, aim to ease the pressure on Gaza. But the group appears wary of risking an all-out war that would bring massive destruction to Lebanon.