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Israeli military withdraws from Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital after two-week raid

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The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) described the raid as one of the most successful operations of the nearly six-month war.



Israeli military withdraws from Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital after two-week raid
2/04/2024
(See translation in Arabic section)
Sydney - Middle East Times Int’l: The Israeli military has withdrawn from Gaza's largest hospital after a two-week raid, leaving behind Palestinian bodies scattered in the dirt and a vast swath of destruction.
Hundreds of people, including some who had been sheltering in Al-Shifa Hospital, rushed back to check damage and hunt for belongings.
Mohammed Mahdi, who was among hundreds of Palestinians who returned to the area, described a scene of "total destruction".
He said several buildings had been burned down and that he had counted six bodies in the area, including two in the hospital courtyard.
Footage circulated on social media and not yet verified showed the bodies of dead Palestinians, some covered in dirty blankets, scattered on the ground around the charred hulk of the hospital building, which had many outer walls missing.
It showed mounds of dirt that had been churned up by bulldozers, and numerous buildings outside the facility either flattened or burned down.
"I haven't stopped crying since I arrived here, horrible massacres were committed by the occupation here," said Samir Basel, 43, speaking to Reuters via a chat app as he toured Al-Shifa.
"The place is destroyed, buildings have been burnt and destroyed. This place needs to be rebuilt — there is no Shifa hospital anymore," Mr Basel said.
Another resident, Yahia Abu Auf, said there were still patients, medical workers and displaced people sheltering inside the medical compound after several patients had been taken to the nearby Ahli Hospital.
He said army bulldozers had ploughed over a makeshift cemetery in Al-Shifa's courtyard.
"The situation is indescribable," he said. "The occupation destroyed all sense of life here."
The UN health agency said several patients died and dozens were put at risk during the raid, which brought even further destruction to a hospital that had already largely ceased to function.
Israel claims successful raid
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) described the raid as one of the most successful operations of the nearly six-month war.
It claimed to have killed and detained hundreds of militants, including senior operatives, and seized weapons and valuable intelligence documents, lost two soldiers in fighting, but sought to prevent harm to civilians, patients or medics.
Israel has accused Hamas of using hospitals for military purposes and has raided several medical facilities. It says it launched the raid after Hamas and other militants had regrouped there.
Hamas and medical staff deny that Palestinian fighters have any armed presence in hospitals.
Gaza's media office said Israeli forces killed 400 Palestinians around Al-Shifa, including a woman doctor and her son, also a doctor, and put the medical facility out of function. There was no immediate Israeli response.
"The occupation destroyed and burnt all buildings inside Al-Shifa Medical Complex. They bulldozed the courtyards, burying dozens of bodies of martyrs in the rubble, turning the place into a mass graveyard," said Ismail Al-Thawabta, director of the media office.
"This is a crime against humanity."
Critics accuse the army of recklessly endangering civilians and of decimating a health sector already overwhelmed with war-wounded.
Palestinians say Israeli troops forcibly evacuated homes near Al-Shifa Hospital in downtown Gaza City and forced hundreds of residents to march south.
One video obtained by Reuters showed some Palestinians returning to the area to retrieve mattresses and other belongings from under rubble where they had previously been sheltering.
"We evacuated hoping to come back and find my belongings. I have nothing left. My house was bombed and everything has gone. I have nothing left," one woman told Reuters.
"I sought shelter at schools but they told me there was no space for me. Where do I go?"
A spokesman for Gaza's Civil Emergency Service said Israeli forces had executed two people whose bodies were found at the complex in handcuffs, and used bulldozers to dig up the grounds of the complex and exhume buried bodies.
Reuters could not verify the allegation of executions and Israel's military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
At least 21 patients have died since the raid began, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus posted late Sunday on social media site X.
He said over a hundred patients were still inside the compound, including four children and 28 critical patients.
He also said there were no diapers, urine bags or water to clean wounds, and that many patients suffered from infected wounds and dehydration.
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The military had previously raided Al-Shifa in November, after saying Hamas maintained an elaborate command and control centre inside and beneath the compound.
It released images of a tunnel running beneath the hospital that led to a few rooms, as well as weapons it said it had confiscated from inside medical buildings, but nothing on the scale of what it had alleged prior to the raid.
Gazans driven to brink of famine 
Israel's air, land and sea offensive has killed at least 32,845 Palestinians and injured 75,392 , Gaza's Health Ministry said on Monday.
There have been 63 Palestinians killed and 94 injured in the past 24 hours, the ministry added.
The ministry does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its count but says women and children have made up around two-thirds of those killed.
This offensive began after Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel on October 7, 2024, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 people hostage.
The IDF says it has killed over 13,000 Hamas fighters and blames the civilian death toll on Palestinian militants because they fight in dense residential areas.
The war has displaced most of the territory's population and driven a third of its residents to the brink of famine.
Northern Gaza, where Al-Shifa is located, has suffered vast destruction and has been largely isolated since October, leading to widespread hunger.
Israel said late last year that it had largely dismantled Hamas in northern Gaza and withdrew thousands of troops.
But it has battled militants there on a number of occasions since then, and the two weeks of heavy fighting around Al-Shifa highlighted the staying power of the armed groups.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to keep up the offensive until Hamas is destroyed and all of the hostages are freed.
He says Israel will soon expand ground operations to the southern city of Rafah, where some 1.4 million people — more than half of Gaza's population — have sought refuge.
But he faces mounting pressure from Israelis who blame him for the security failures of October 7 and from some families of the hostages who blame him for the failure to reach a deal despite several weeks of talks mediated by the United States, Qatar and Egypt.
Hamas and other militants are still believed to be holding some 100 hostages and the remains of 30 others, after freeing most of the rest during a cease-fire last November in exchange for the release of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.
Tens of thousands of Israelis thronged central Jerusalem on Sunday in the largest anti-government protest since the country went to war in October.
Deep divisions over Netanayahu's leadership long predate the war, which still enjoys strong public support.
AP/Reuters

 














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