Israeli Army Finally Withdraws From Al-Shifa Hospital

After two weeks of fighting in which they killed around 200 Palestinians and arrested hundreds of others, the Israeli military has confirmed that its soldiers have withdrawn from Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

Africa Today News, New York reports that the troops left widespread devastation in their wake after extended gun battles with Palestinian militants in and around the complex.

Taysir al-Tanna, a longtime vascular surgeon at Al-Shifa, said many of the hospital’s main buildings — including the emergency, obstetrics and surgical wards — had been badly damaged in the fighting, and the main gate had been smashed.

“Now it looks like a wasteland,” Dr. al-Tanna said.

Mahmoud Basal, a spokesman for the Palestinian Civil Defense, said bodies were scattered in and around the complex. The final death toll remained unclear, he said, as some corpses were either under the rubble of destroyed buildings or were believed to have been buried.

“Even outside the complex itself, there are blocks of buildings that were knocked to the ground,” and people were searching for the occupants in the rubble, Mr. Basal said.

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The Israeli military said the roughly 200 Palestinians it killed were militants, and that its soldiers had arrested around 900 people it suspected of being militants at the Shifa complex over the past two weeks, including senior commanders in groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It said two Israeli soldiers were killed and eight were wounded in the raid.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military spokesman, blamed the destruction on the militants, saying they had fortified themselves inside hospital wards, fired on soldiers and refused calls to surrender. “We had to fire on the buildings in order to stop that and to kill the terrorists,” he said.

Israeli forces evacuated displaced civilians sheltering in the compound as well as some patients, and placed other patients in a building away from the fighting, Admiral Hagari said. The World Health Organization said on Sunday that at least 21 patients had died since the Israeli raid began in mid-March, though their causes of death were unclear. By this weekend, just 107 patients remained — 30 of them bedridden — without drinking water and with only minimal medication, the Gaza Health Ministry said in a statement.

Africa Today News, New York

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