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Horrific scenes follow Israeli army withdrawal from Al-Shifa

'Death is everywhere': Palestinians speak of horrific scenes at Al-Shifa hospital after Israeli army withdrawal
5 min read
02 April, 2024
While crying bitterly, one survivor said to TNA, "I could not save my children (...) The smell of death is everywhere in the hospital."
"I wept from the horror of what I saw. The hospital turned into a ghost town containing nothing but death, killing and destruction," Mohammed Al-Ajrami, a resident of Gaza City, remarked to TNA. [Getty]

On Monday, the Israeli army withdrew from the Shifa Medical Complex, west of Gaza City, leaving behind enormous destruction and hundreds of bodies scattered inside the hospital and around it.

Avichai Adraee, a spokesperson for the Israeli army, declared that the Israeli forces had "completed the operation" in the Al-Shifa complex and left the hospital area after a siege that lasted about two weeks.

The health ministry in Gaza said that "the occupation forces withdrew from the Al-Shifa Medical Complex after burning its buildings," noting that "dozens of martyrs' bodies, some of them decomposed, were recovered from inside and around the complex."

"Some of the bodies were crushed as a result of being run over by tanks and military bulldozers," Palestinian medical sources told The New Arab

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The extent of the destruction inside the complex and the buildings surrounding it is massive. The Civil Defence in the Gaza Strip reported that about 300 bodies were found, including people whose hands and feet were tied, Mohammed Bassal, the spokesman of the Palestinian Civil Defence, told TNA

For its part, the government media office in Gaza announced that the Israeli army killed about 400 Palestinians in Al-Shifa Hospital and homes next to the medicinal site, accusing it of committing "crimes against humanity."

As if an earthquake hit Al-Shifa

As soon as the army announced its withdrawal, residents rushed to Al-Shifa Hospital to inspect the rubble, help recover the bodies of the victims and injured and search for those who were still alive and stuck inside the hospital. However, the horror of the scenes and the massive destruction caused by the Israeli occupation forces prevented residents from being able to comprehend what happened entirely.  

As soon as anyone walks into the hospital, they will see dozens of decomposed bodies scattered everywhere in the hospital, some of which were run over by Israeli tanks and other bodies that exhibited signs of deliberate execution.

As for the destruction, no part of the hospital was left functional, as it was entirely out of service, according to what was announced by the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

"I wept from the horror of what I saw. The hospital turned into a ghost town containing nothing but death, killing and destruction," Mohammed Al-Ajrami, a resident of Gaza City, remarked to TNA

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"What sin did the victims commit, and how were they executed with such brutality? (...) Israel is a Nazi state that does not have mercy on anyone and does not differentiate between children, men, women and elderly. The criminal Israeli army targets everyone here," he added. 

Once Ibrahim Ziadeh, another Gaza-based resident, reached the hospital, he could not control himself and started screaming and wailing after he found the decomposing body of his cousin Jamil among the bodies in the hospital yard.

"We were hoping he escaped or was stuck inside the hospital... My cousin is a civilian and has never been involved in military action. He is a fruit seller, and he fled to the hospital in the hope that he would find safety there, but unfortunately, it was his grave," the 39-year-old father of four said to TNA

Dozens of civil defence crews and local citizens were busy recovering the bodies of the victims to bury them in a cemetery in Gaza City, while foul odours were emanating due to the decomposition of most of them.

The smell of death is everywhere

For 14 consecutive days,  Om Ahmed Al-Alami, an elderly woman, remained trapped inside the hospital amid inhumane conditions due to the Israeli siege.

Al-Alami, who lost three of her children inside the hospital after the Israeli army executed them in cold blood, said to TNA, "We were trying to escape death all the time, but the army surrounded us in the maternity building and then transferred us to the old surgery building (...) after we felt extremely thirsty, they tried My sons wanted to bring us water, but the army killed them before our eyes."

While crying bitterly, she added, "I could not save my children (...) The smell of death is everywhere in the hospital. I wish very much to die and join my children, as I cannot live after them."

Hind Al-Madhoun experienced a similar tragedy. She remained stuck inside the hospital with her three children for two whole weeks without being able to obtain food and water for her children.

She describes the situation inside the hospital as "a land of hell" in light of the continued Israeli bombing of every place inside and outside the hospital.

"When the soldiers stormed the section we were in, they shouted in our faces and told us that they would kill us all and would not have mercy on any of us. We would all die in the most horrific ways, and they would leave our bodies to stray dogs to eat," she said. 

"We begged them to leave us alone and swore that we were civilians, but they did not listen to us and beat us with rifles while they arrested the men and kept us in the place as hostages to use us in their battle," she added. 

A hospital under siege 

On 18 March, the Israeli army stormed the Al-Shifa compound. It issued a statement claiming that its intelligence apparatus showed that Hamas militants had entered the Al-Shifa compound and were using it as a "command centre". 

The Israeli army carried out a previous military attack on the Al-Shifa Medical Complex in November last year. It claimed to have found a Hamas combat command centre and army equipment in the complex. At the same time, the health authorities in Gaza, as well as various international humanitarian organisations, denied the Israeli claim.

To date, Israel has not offered any clear evidence to back their claims. 

Al-Shifa Medical Complex was a governmental hospital affiliated with the Ministry of Health. Established in 1946, it was subject to Israeli control after its occupation in 1967 and then passed on to the Palestinian Authority's management after the Oslo Agreement in 1994.

The complex developed over time and became the largest medical complex in the Gaza Strip. It included three specialised hospitals and employed 25% of the Gaza Strip's medical workers.