War in Gaza: what Al-Shifa hospital looked like after two weeks of Israeli incursions



Photo caption,

Palestinians say several bodies were found after Israeli forces withdrew

Article information
  • author, Yolande Knell and Sean Seddon
  • Roll, From BBC News in Jerusalem and London
  • 10 minutes ago

Israel’s military announced it has withdrawn from al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City after a two-week invasion that left most of the important medical complex in ruins.

Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry said dozens of bodies had been found — and local residents said nearby areas had been devastated.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) stated, in turn, that its troops killed and detained hundreds of “terrorists”, in addition to having found weapons and intelligence information “throughout the hospital”.

The IDF argued that they invaded al-Shifa because Hamas had regrouped there.

The two-week operation resulted in intense fighting and Israeli airstrikes on nearby and surrounding buildings.

The wards were attacked because Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives were using them as a base, the IDF said, accusing Hamas fighters of fighting inside medical departments, detonating explosives and setting fire to hospital buildings.

Photos show that al-Shifa’s main building, which housed the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), and the neighboring building housing the emergency, general surgery and orthopedics departments were destroyed.

Dozens of bodies, some decomposing, were found in and around the complex, which is now “completely out of operation,” according to the Ministry of Health.

A doctor told the AFP news agency that more than 20 bodies had been recovered, some had been run over while removing vehicles.

On Sunday (31/3), the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stated that 21 patients had died since al-Shifa “came under siege”.

According to him, patients had been transferred several times — and more than 100 had been kept in an “inadequate building” in the complex, without support and medical care.

Patient Barra al-Shawish told the Reuters news agency that Israeli troops allowed “a very small amount of food” to enter.

“No treatment, no medicine, nothing, and bombings for 24 hours that didn’t stop, and immense destruction in the hospital,” he said.

Some of the patients were being transferred to al-Ahli Hospital, an al-Shifa doctor told Reuters.

In a statement, the IDF said troops “completed precise operational activities in the al-Shifa Hospital area and left the hospital area.” They further added that during the invasion, the IDF was “avoiding harm to civilians, patients and medical personnel.”

On Sunday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that al-Shifa had become “a den of terrorists” — and that more than 200 members of Palestinian armed groups, including senior figures, had been killed, and others they surrendered.

Around 900 people were detained in and around al-Shifa, Israel says, with more than 500 of them later found to be members of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

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Play video, “Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital in ruins after two-week Israeli attack”, Duration 0.5300:53

Video caption,

Scenes of destruction at al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza

Two weeks ago, hundreds of Israeli forces took just a few hours to approach and enter the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip. A sharp contrast compared to its controversial first invasion in November, when it took several weeks for large numbers of tanks and vehicles supported by heavy aerial artillery to approach the site.

For supporters of the Israeli military, this is proof of the achievements made during the war and its tactical success, launching a surprise attack on the enemy to hit them hard. An IDF spokesperson had previously referred to the operation as “one of the most successful of the war so far” due to the intelligence collected, as well as the number of deaths and detainees.

Some analysts suggest, however, that al-Shifa’s second invasion highlights flaws in Israel’s military strategy for the war. They argue it reveals the ease with which Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters were able to regroup after Israel withdrew its forces from northern Gaza — and the urgent need to present a convincing postwar plan for governing the territory.

Gaza’s hospitals have been the main focus of the current war, with thousands of Palestinians seeking shelter from Israeli shelling in their courtyards; and Israeli forces storming the premises, claiming that Hamas fighters are present there.

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

This Monday (1/4), the Gaza Ministry of Health made an appeal for international help to resume care at Nasser Hospital, in the city of Khan Younis, in southern Gaza. The largest hospital in southern Gaza has been out of operation since the Israeli military raided the facility in February.

The war began when Hamas fighters invaded southern Israel on October 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages, according to Israeli data. Around 130 hostages remain in captivity, with at least 34 presumed dead.

More than 32,700 Palestinians have been killed and 75,000 injured in Gaza since Israel launched its military campaign, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, which says 70 percent of those killed were women and children.

Infographic shows hospital complexes

The article is in Portuguese

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