Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital in ruins after two-week Israeli raid

Israel’s military says it has pulled out of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City after a two-week raid that left most of the major medical complex in ruins.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said troops had killed and detained hundreds of “terrorists” and found weapons and intelligence “throughout the hospital”.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said they left behind dozens of bodies. Locals said nearby areas were razed.

The IDF said it raided al-Shifa because Hamas had regrouped there.

The raid saw intense fighting and Israeli air strikes in nearby buildings and the surrounding area. Wards were attacked because Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives were using them as a base, the IDF said.

Photos taken after the withdrawal showed that al-Shifa’s main surgery building, which housed the intensive care unit, and the neighbouring building where the emergency, general surgery and orthopaedics departments were located, had been destroyed.

The IDF statement said troops had “completed precise operational activity in the area of al-Shifa hospital and exited the area of the hospital”. During the raid the IDF was “preventing harm to civilians, patients, and medical teams”, it added.

A spokesman for Gaza’s Hamas-run civil defence service, Mahmoud Basal, was cited by Palestinian media as saying that the IDF “destroyed all departments, buildings and infrastructure” in the complex.

“It is difficult for us to count the number of martyrs because the [Israeli forces] bulldozed the roads and buried the bodies inside and around the al-Shifa complex,” he said.

On Sunday evening, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu said al-Shifa had become “a terrorist lair” and that more than 200 members of Palestinian armed groups, including senior figures, had been killed in the IDF raid, with others surrendering.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization (WHO), meanwhile said that 21 patients had died since al-Shifa “came under siege”. Patients had been moved multiple times and more than 100 patients had been held in an “inadequate building” in the compound lacking support and medical care, he said.

Two weeks ago, it took hundreds of Israeli forces just a few hours to approach and enter the Gaza Strip’s largest hospital. That was in marked contrast to their first controversial raid there in November, when it took several weeks for large numbers of tanks and vehicles backed by heavy air strikes to close in on the site.

For supporters of the Israeli military this has been evidence of the gains it has made during the war and its tactical success, launching a surprise attack on the enemy to strike it hard. An IDF spokesman previously referred to the operation as “one of the most successful of the war so far” because of the intelligence gleaned as well as numbers killed and detained.

However, some commentators suggest the second al-Shifa raid highlights flaws in Israel’s military strategy for the war. They argue that it shows the ease with which Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters were able to regroup after Israel pulled its forces out of northern Gaza and the urgent need to come up with a convincing post-war plan to govern the territory.

Gaza’s hospitals have been a main focus of the current war, with thousands of Palestinians seeking shelter from Israeli bombardment in their grounds and Israeli forces storming the facilities because they say Hamas fighters are present there.

Israel has long accused Hamas of using civilian health infrastructure as a cover to launch its operations, which the Palestinian group denies.

Mr Netanyahu made his remarks on Sunday night prior to entering surgery to treat a hernia discovered during a routine check-up.

Early on Monday his office said the operation was successful and Mr Netanyahu was “in good shape and beginning to recover”.

His operation was carried out as thousands of Israelis joined the latest anti-government protests in Jerusalem.

The demonstrators criticised the failure to free the Israeli hostages still being held in Gaza, and called for new elections.

Mr Netanyahu said he was working non-stop to bring the hostages home and that giving into demonstrators’ demands would only benefit Hamas.

The war began when Hamas fighters stormed into southern Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. About 130 of the hostages remain in captivity, at least 34 of whom are presumed dead.

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Also on Sunday, seven journalists – including a freelancer working for the BBC – were injured in an Israeli air strike on the grounds of al-Aqsa hospital in Deir al-Balah, in central Gaza, which targeted Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters.

The IDF hit a building in the grounds of the hospital which it said PIJ was using as a command centre.

Four members of PIJ – which is allied with Hamas and participated in the 7 October attacks – were killed, the IDF said.

More than 32,700 Palestinians have been killed and 75,000 injured in Gaza since Israel launched its military campaign, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. It says 70% of those killed were women and children.

The war has also left Palestinians in Gaza facing severe hunger. A recent UN-backed assessment warned that a famine in Gaza was imminent, prompting the UN’s top court last week to order Israel to enable an immediate “unhindered” flow of aid.

Source : BBC NEWS

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