Gaza [Palestine], April 2: Israel has withdrawn its forces from Gaza's al-Shifa Hospital following a two-week operation, leaving behind scenes of devastation.
The Israeli military confirmed the sudden pullback on Monday, saying it had completed operational activity in the area of the hospital and claiming to have killed and captured numerous Hamas fighters. Witnesses report a swath of death and destruction at the medical complex, where a large number of displaced Palestinians were sheltering.
"Troops have completed precise operational activity in the area of the Shifa Hospital and exited the area," the Israeli military said. The army launched the raid on Gaza's largest hospital, in the northern Gaza City, on March 18. It says it was targeting Hamas fighters who were using the complex as a base.
Israel forces have made similar claims throughout the war that broke out in October as they have besieged several hospitals in Gaza. Hamas has denied operating from al-Shifa or other health facilities.
Al-Shifa, which endured a previous siege in November, now appears to be largely in ruins. People are trying to salvage what they can, reports Al Jazeera's Ismail al-Ghoul from al-Shifa, noting that the hospital was serving as a shelter for displaced people, as well as housing numerous staff and patients.
"There is no life here. The complex is in ruins and cannot be revived," he reports.
"Buildings in all departments have been burned, and the structure of the complex has been damaged from the inside," al-Ghoul continued. "From what we can see, it appears the occupation forces deliberately targeted the health sector and destroyed the largest medical complex in Gaza City." Israel's military has described the raid as one of the most successful operations of its war in Gaza, which has now run for nearly six months.
It claimed to have killed many Hamas fighters, including senior operatives. A spokesman said around 900 people suspected of being "militants" had been arrested, and weapons, valuable intelligence, and over $3mn in different currencies, seized.
The army also insisted that the raid on the hospital had been conducted "while preventing harm to civilians, patients and medical teams".
Medical sources told Al Jazeera that hundreds of bodies were found inside the complex and in surrounding streets.
Video footage circulating online showed heavily damaged and charred buildings, mounds of dirt that had been churned up by bulldozers and patients on stretchers in darkened corridors.
On Sunday, the head of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said 21 patients had died since Israel began its siege.
During the previous Israeli raid in November, the Israeli military had alleged that Hamas maintained an elaborate command and control centre inside and beneath al-Shifa, showing video of a handful of tunnels and rooms. Hamas has dismissed Israel's claims, calling them "lies and cheap propaganda".
The war began on October 7 following Hamas's offensive into Israel, which killed about 1,100 people and saw the armed group take nearly 250 people captive.
Israel responded with an air, land and sea offensive that has killed more than 32,000 Palestinians, displaced most of the territory's population, and driven a third of its residents to the brink of famine.
Source: Qatar Tribune