Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital 'mass graveyard' as Israel troops exit after two-week raid

Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital 'mass graveyard' as Israel troops exit after two-week raid
Israeli forces killed 400 Palestinians around Al-Shifa Hospital and put the facility out of function, the Gaza media office said.
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Israeli forces have withdrawn from Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza after a brutal two-week raid [AFP/Getty]

Israeli forces left Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Monday after a deadly two-week raid, leaving a wasteland of destroyed buildings and Palestinian bodies scattered in the dirt.

Hundreds of people, including some who had been sheltering in the Gaza Strip's largest hospital prior to the Israeli incursion, rushed back to check damage and hunt for belongings.

The Gaza 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 [Israeli] 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."

A spokesperson 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 corpses.

Reuters could not verify the allegations and Israel's military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Gaza health ministry said that, after heavy Israeli airstrikes 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".

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Several doctors and civilians at Al-Shifa 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.

AFP has asked the Israeli military for comment.

Palestine Red Crescent Society spokesperson Raed Al-Nems told pan-Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera many departments at the medical facility "were set on fire".

"All reports received from Al-Shifa Hospital were really shocking. The entire hospital was totally destroyed. It is totally out of operation," he said.

He added that some medical staff were killed, or subjected to torture, or detained.

"Above all, they have been besieged for two weeks without any medical supplies or even food or water," Al-Nems said.

The Israeli military claimed it had killed or detained hundreds of Hamas militants in the Al-Shifa area, seized weaponry and intelligence documents, lost two soldiers in fighting, but sought to prevent harm to civilians, patients or medics.

Hamas and medics deny any armed presence in hospitals.

The International Court of Justice in January found that Israel had plausibly breached the Genocide Convention in Gaza.

'There is no hospital anymore'

Footage on social media, unverified by Reuters, showed corpses, some covered in dirty blankets, scattered around the charred hulk of the hospital, many of whose outer walls were missing. It showed ground heavily ploughed up, and numerous buildings outside the facility 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."

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?"

More than 32,800 Palestinians have been killed, including 63 in the past 24 hours, in Israel's military offensive in Gaza, according to the Palestinian health authorities.

The Hamas-led October 7 attack resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures. Palestinian militants also seized around 250 hostages. Israel believes about 130 remain in Gaza, including 34 who are presumed dead.

Meanwhile, in Egypt, mediators held talks with Israeli officials in a bid to bridge gaps between the positions of Hamas and Israel over reaching a ceasefire.

But a Palestinian official close to the mediation effort told Reuters: "There has been no sign of a breakthrough."

(Reuters, AFP, The New Arab)