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Article: Israeli troops exit Gaza's Shifa Hospital, leaving rubble and bodies

Israeli troops exit Gaza's Shifa Hospital, leaving rubble and bodies

Israeli troops exit Gaza's Shifa Hospital, leaving rubble and bodies

PHOTO CAPTION: Israeli soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip in this picture released on December 21, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces photo via Reuters)

 

 

By Dan Williams and Nidal al-Mughrabi

JERUSALEM/CAIRO (Reuters) -Israeli forces left Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Monday after a two-week operation, 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 Israeli military said it had killed or detained hundreds of Hamas militants in the hospital 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 Hamas-run 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 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.

On previous occasions during the almost six-month-old war, Israeli forces have dug up bodies for forensic inspection, suspecting some might be those of hostages seized by Hamas during an Oct. 7 cross-border rampage that sparked the fighting.

'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 32,000 Palestinians have been killed, including 63 in the past 24 hours, in Israel's military offensive in Gaza, according to the Palestinian health authorities.

In the Oct. 7 attack, Hamas killed 1,200 people and took 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. The military has published the names of 257 soldiers killed in Gaza combat.

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."

(Writing by Dan Williams and Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Andrew Cawthorne)

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