Israeli troops pull out of Gaza hospital – witnesses

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Al-Shifa hospital in GazaImage source, Getty Images

Israeli troops have pulled out of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, according to witnesses who spoke to the BBC.

The medical facility was first raided two weeks ago after the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it had intelligence indicating Hamas was using it as a base to launch attacks.

Heavy fighting has been reported around the hospital, the largest in Gaza, in recent weeks.

Hamas denies using medical sites to carry out military operations.

Following the withdrawal on Monday, Palestinian media reports said dozens of bodies were found in the vicinity of the complex, citing witnesses and the Hamas-run health ministry.

The BBC has not verified those reports. But the World Health Organization (WHO) has said 21 patients have died in al-Shifa in the past two weeks, while Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said more than 200 “terrorists” were killed.

When the raid was first announced, IDF chief spokesman Daniel Hagari said “Hamas terrorists have regrouped inside al-Shifa hospital”.

The IDF said then it was launching a “high-precision” operation on the grounds of the hospital and urged displaced civilians sheltering on its grounds to leave immediately.

Witnesses reported heavy gunfire and tanks surrounding the facility when the raid began in early hours of the morning on 18 March.

Al-Shifa was raided earlier in the conflict after Israel said it had evidence that hostages captured during the 7 October attack were taken there.

Israel has long accused Hamas of using civilian health infrastructure as a cover to launch its operations, which the Palestinian group refutes.

Smoke rising over Gaza

Image source, Reuters

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the WHO, has described the situation at al-Shifa hospital as a “siege”.

In a post on X – formerly Twitter – made prior to the troops withdrawal, he said more than 100 people were still inside al-Shifa struggling with a lack of food water, and medical supplies.

But Mr Netanyahu has reiterated that al-Shifa was a “terrorist lair” and praised the efforts of Israeli soldiers for conducting a “precise and surgical” surprise attack.

The Israeli PM made his remarks on Sunday night prior to entering surgery to treat a hernia discovered during a routine check-up.

Early on Monday his office said the operation was successful and Mr Netanyahu was “in good shape and beginning to recover”.

The surgery took place amid demonstrations held in Jerusalem fuelled by mounting anger over his government’s handling of the war in Gaza. Thousands took to the streets demanding more action to free hostages.

Around 130 people – at least 34 of whom are presumed dead – are still unaccounted for after Hamas’s 7 October attack on Israel.

Mr Netanyahu is under pressure from some in Israeli society who believe there has been insufficient progress in rescuing the remaining hostages inside Gaza. His office had said Mr Netanyahu and his wife were meeting the families of female soldiers still unaccounted for.

Also on Sunday, seven journalists – including a freelancer working for the BBC – were injured in an Israeli air strike on the grounds of al-Aqsa hospital targeting the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) group.

The IDF hit a building in the grounds of the hospital which it said PIJ was using as a command centre.

Four members of the PIJ – which is allied with Hamas and participated in the 7 October attack – were killed, the IDF said.

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