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Israel-Hamas war: IDF troops leave Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital in ruins after 14-day raid

The World Health Organisation said 21 patients perished during Israel's two-week-long raid in Al-Shifa hospital and hundreds of others were put at risk. The Israeli military claimed to have killed and detained several Hamas militants along with seizing weaponry and valuable intelligence.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Gaza Published on: April 01, 2024 16:19 IST
Israel Hamas war, Gaza, Al Shifa hospital, Israeli troops, raid
Image Source : REUTERS A view of the aftermath of the Israeli raid on Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital.

Gaza: Israeli forces withdrew from Gaza's largest hospital Al-Shifa in Gaza City on Monday after a two-week raid, said the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), leaving behind a vast area of destroyed buildings and Palestinian bodies scattered within the complex. The Israeli military described the raid as one of their most successful operations of the nearly six-month war, having killed and detained hundreds of militants and seizing weaponry and valuable intelligence documents.

The United Nations health agency said several patients in the hospital died and dozens were put at risk during the raid, which brought further destruction to the hospital that had already largely stopped functioning after a previous raid. Heavy fighting between Hamas militants and Israeli troops took place for days inside different buildings, according to the military, showing that Hamas can still put up resistance in one of the hardest-hit areas of Gaza.

Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, the top military spokesman, said Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad group had established their main northern headquarters inside the hospital and blamed Hamas for the destruction, claiming that the militants barricaded themselves inside hospital wards while others launched mortar rounds at the compound. Hamas and medical staff deny that Palestinian fighters have any armed presence in hospitals.

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. Unverified footage on social media showed the bodies of dead Palestinians, some scattered on the ground around the charred hulk of the hospital building.

Israeli operations in Al-Shifa

Israel said operations inside Al Shifa had been conducted "while preventing harm to civilians, patients and medical teams". Hagari said the army had evacuated more than 200 of the estimated 300 to 350 patients and delivered food, water and medical supplies to the rest. He further said some 900 militants were arrested during the raid, and $3 million in different currencies and weapons were seized.

Israel has accused Hamas of using hospitals for military purposes and has raided several medical facilities. It says it launched the raid on Al-Shifa after Hamas and other militants had regrouped there. However, critics have accused the army of recklessly endangering civilians and of decimating a health sector already overwhelmed with war-wounded.

At least 21 patients have died since the raid began, World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus posted late Sunday on 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.

The military had previously raided Shifa, Gaza’s largest hospital, in November, after saying Hamas maintained an elaborate command and control center inside and beneath the compound. It revealed 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 that raid.

At least 32,782 Palestinians have been killed since Israel launched a retaliatory strike on Gaza following an attack by Hamas-led militants on October 7 in southern Israel, where they killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took around 250 people hostage. The Israeli military 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.

Pressure on Israel PM Netanyahu

Israeli 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.

However, there has been mounting criticism of Netanyahu's policies and his failure to bring hostages home. Tens and thousands of Israelis gathered outside the parliament building in Jerusalem on Sunday in the largest anti-government demonstration since the country went to war in October

They urged the government to reach a deal to free dozens of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza and to hold early elections. The crowd stretched for blocks around the Knesset or parliament building, and organizers vowed to continue the demonstration for several days. They urged the government to cancel an upcoming parliamentary recess and to hold new elections nearly two years ahead of schedule.

(with inputs from agencies)

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