Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital devastated in two-week battle

Israeli forces on Monday pulled out of Gaza’s largest hospital complex after an intensive two-week military operation against Hamas militants, leaving behind charred buildings and bodies in the sprawling complex.

Further raising regional tensions during the Gaza war, Israeli air strikes destroyed the Iranian embassy’s consular annex in Syria, Damascus said, as Iranian state TV reported a Revolutionary Guards commander among the dead.

Over the past two weeks, the Israeli army carried out what it labelled “precise operational activity” at the Al-Shifa complex, before declaring on Monday that the forces had withdrawn.

Israel said it had battled Palestinian militants hiding inside Gaza City’s Al-Shifa Hospital, killing at least 200 of them and recovering large stockpiles of weapons, explosives and cash.

A spokesman for Gaza’s civil defence agency said Monday that Israeli forces killed about 300 people in and around the hospital over the two-week operation.

The health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza said that, after heavy Israeli air strikes and tank fire, “the scale of the destruction inside the complex and the buildings around it is very large”.

“Dozens of bodies, some of them decomposed, have been recovered from in and around the Al-Shifa medical complex,” it said, adding that the hospital was now “completely out of service”.

Most of Gaza’s hospitals are no longer functioning, the UN has said.

Several doctors and civilians at the damaged complex told AFP that at least 20 bodies had been found, some of which appeared to have been driven over by military vehicles.

Several were found close to the west entrance to the complex, which the Israeli army used during its departure from the hospital grounds on Monday.

“Bodies… The tanks went over them. Destruction. Children. Innocents. Unarmed civilians. They (soldiers) went over them,” one witness said, asking not to be named.

An AFP correspondent saw one badly decomposed body bearing tyre marks, although it was not known when it was driven over.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment.

The Hamas government press office said the army had blown up more than 20 houses within 24 hours in the main southern city of Khan Yunis, where battles have also raged around the Nasser and Al-Amal hospitals.

The bloodiest ever Gaza war erupted with Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack which resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel’s retaliatory campaign, aimed at destroying Hamas, has killed at least 32,845 people, mostly women and children, according to the Gaza health ministry.

– Israel street protests –

The world’s top court has ordered Israel to “ensure urgent humanitarian assistance” in Gaza without delay, saying “famine is setting in”.

Foreign powers have ramped up aid airdrops, although United Nations agencies and charities warn this falls far short of the dire need and say trucks are the most efficient way of delivering aid.

A second ship carrying relief goods via the Mediterranean was near Gaza’s coast on Monday, according to website, two days after leaving Cyprus.

Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides said that “very shortly, the second aid mission will reach the port of Gaza, within the day” and that “we are preparing for the third mission”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was maintaining “his daily routine from hospital”, his office said in a statement, following a hernia operation on Sunday.

He will be discharged on Tuesday afternoon, it added.

During their attack on Israel, Palestinian militants also seized around 250 hostages. Israel believes about 130 remain in Gaza, including 34 who are presumed dead.

Netanyahu is under rising pressure from the hostages’ families and supporters, as well as anti-government protesters, whose nightly street rallies have gathered pace and drawn thousands onto the streets.

The right-wing premier has also been at odds with Israel’s top ally the United States, which has objected to his plans to invade Rafah in southern Gaza because the city is crowded with about 1.5 million people.

Netanyahu earlier cancelled an Israeli government delegation’s visit to Washington to discuss the Rafah operation against Hamas militants, but a meeting has been set for Monday via video conference, an Israeli source told AFP.

“There may be a meeting in person later this week,” said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Washington confirmed the meeting would take place.

– Damascus strike –

The war in Gaza has repeatedly raised fears of a wider regional conflagration, with repeated violence linked to the conflict in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

Those fears intensified on Monday with the strikes in Damascus on the consular annex of Israel’s arch foe Iran.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said eight people were killed.

Iranian state TV said among those killed was a senior commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ foreign operations arm, the Quds Force, Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi.

Israel did not immediately comment.

Iran vowed a “decisive response” to the attack, which Tehran’s ambassador to Syria, Hossein Akbari, said “was carried out by F-35 fighter jets.” He told Iranian state TV that “at least five people were killed” in the attack.

Hamas, which is backed by Iran, in a statement acknowledged the suffering and “exhaustion” of Gazans because of the war, while vowing to continue fighting until it achieves “victory and freedom” for Palestinians.

The Israeli military said on Monday that 600 soldiers had been killed since the start of the war — including 256 in the Gaza ground invasion since late October.

Dozens of air strikes and shelling had hit the area around the Al-Shifa complex Monday morning, in heavy fire which the Hamas government media office said served to provide cover for the withdrawing troops and tanks.

The army has in recent days released footage of its fighters moving through the hospital’s corridors, and pictures of large numbers of assault rifles, grenades and other weapons it said were recovered from the maternity ward.

Hamas has denied operating from Al-Shifa and other health facilities.


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