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Israeli forces retreat from Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital after weeks of siege

Palestinians inspect the damage at Gaza's al-Shifa hospital after the Israeli military withdrew from the complex housing the hospital on April 1, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

The Gaza Health Ministry says Israeli forces have withdrawn tanks and vehicles from Gaza’s main hospital al-Shifa after a two-week siege of the medical complex.

In a statement on Monday, the ministry said that dozens of bodies, some of them decomposed, had been found at the complex after the Israeli pullout, which also left behind a vast swath of destruction.

It emphasized that Israel retreated from the hospital “after burning down the complex buildings and putting it completely out of service.”

“The scale of the destruction inside the complex and the buildings around it is very large,” the ministry said.

All buildings in the hospital were exposed to fire or sustained damage, including the mortuary and the hospital’s courtyards and corridors.

The Israeli military also confirmed withdrawal from the hospital.

The Gaza government’s media office said dozens of the Israeli airstrikes and shells around the complex had provided cover for the withdrawing vehicles.

Israel first raided the hospital in Gaza City last November. On March 18, Israeli occupation forces started a new wave of attacks on the medical complex and imposed a siege on it.

Al-Shifa, Gaza’s largest hospital, has sheltered thousands of Palestinians who fled Israel’s invasion in the northern parts of the territory.

The Israeli military claimed that the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas is using the facility to “conduct and promote terrorist activity.” Hamas has repeatedly denied operating from Shifa and other health facilities.

A doctor said more than 20 bodies had been recovered from the Shifa hospital and that some had been crushed by withdrawing vehicles.

Israel unleashed its brutal US-backed war on the Gaza Strip on October 7 after Hamas carried out a historic operation against the usurping entity in retaliation for the regime’s intensified atrocities against the Palestinian people.

However, more than six months into the offensive, the Tel Aviv regime has failed to achieve its objectives of “destroying Hamas” and finding Israeli captives despite killing at least 32,782 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and injuring 75,298 others.

Around 1.4 million people who fled their homes elsewhere in Gaza have sought shelter in Rafah, the only part of the territory Israeli troops have yet to enter.

Washington has nonetheless approved billions of dollars worth of bombs and fighter jets for Israel in recent days, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed officials.

Intense fighting

Israel early on Monday continued its deadly air strikes against other areas of the Gaza Strip amid fighting in several flashpoints located across the besieged territory.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said on Monday that at least 60 people died in the strip overnight.

Israel’s genocidal war has devastated much of Gaza, including several health facilities, and sparked stern warnings of famine among the civilian population.

A binding UN Security Council resolution adopted on March 25 has so far failed to curb Israel’s acts of aggression, including in or around hospitals.

The long-awaited resolution demanded an immediate ceasefire for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the release of Israelis Hamas took captive during Operation Al-Aqsa Storm on October 7, 2023. It also underscores the “urgent need to expand the flow” of aid into Gaza.

At least four Palestinians were killed and 16 injured, including several journalists, on Sunday in an Israeli airstrike on a tent for displaced people on the grounds of the Al-Aqsa Hospital compound in the city of Deir el-Balah in central Gaza, medical sources reported.

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