Cape Times

Israel leaves hospital a wreck

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ISRAELI forces left Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City yesterday after a twoweek 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.

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 October 7 cross-border rampage that sparked the fighting.

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 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 said.

“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 October 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”.

Senior US and Israeli officials planned to hold a virtual meeting yesterday to discuss the Biden administra­tion’s alternativ­e proposals to an Israeli military invasion of Rafah, a US official said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called off a planned visit to Washington last week by a senior Israeli delegation after the US allowed passage of a Gaza ceasefire resolution at the UN yesterday, marking a new war-time low in his relations with President Joe Biden.

Two days later Israel asked the White House to reschedule a high-level meeting on military plans for Gaza’s southern city of Rafah, officials said, in an apparent bid to ease tensions between the two allies.

The US, concerned about a deepening humanitari­an crisis in Gaza, wants Israel to consider alternativ­es to a ground invasion of Rafah, last relatively safe haven for more than a million displaced Palestinia­n civilians.

The US team in the talks will be led by Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan.

 ?? | Reuters ?? PALESTINIA­NS inspect damage at Al Shifa Hospital after Israeli forces withdrew from the hospital and the area around it following a two-week operation, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Gaza City yesterday.
| Reuters PALESTINIA­NS inspect damage at Al Shifa Hospital after Israeli forces withdrew from the hospital and the area around it following a two-week operation, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Gaza City yesterday.

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