Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital in ruins after Israeli troops withdraw

Israeli forces left Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Monday after a two-week operation by special forces who detained hundreds of suspected Palestinian militants and left a wasteland of destroyed buildings.

Latest military operation ends after 2 weeks following battles with Hamas

Gaza hospital in ruins after weeks-long Israeli raid

2 months ago
Duration 3:12
Israeli troops withdrew from Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital over the weekend, but left the critical facility in ruins. Israel is also being accused of escalating tensions with Iran after killing military officials with an airstrike in Syria.

The latest:

  • U.S. urges alternatives to Rafah invasion.
  • Netanyahu moves to shut down Al Jazeera in Israel.
  • 'No sign of a breakthrough' in ceasefire talks, official says.

Israeli forces left Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Monday after a two-week operation by special forces who detained hundreds of suspected Palestinian militants and left a wasteland of destroyed buildings.

With access to Gaza's biggest hospital severely restricted, the Israeli and Palestinian versions differed sharply.

Palestinian officials called the raid on a hospital treating severely wounded patients a war crime, while Israeli officials said special forces units conducted a targeted strike against a Hamas stronghold deliberately located among vulnerable civilians.

Thousands of Palestinians — 6,200 according to the Israeli military — had been sheltering in the complex, one of few locations in the north of Gaza with some access to electricity and water.

A combination image shows people gathered outside a building, bottom, and that same building destroyed, top.
This combination of photos shows Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital on Monday following the withdrawal of Israeli troops, top, and that same hospital on Dec. 10, 2023. (AFP via Getty Images)

Ismail Al-Thawabta, director of the Hamas-run Gaza media office, said Israeli forces had killed 400 Palestinians in and around the hospital including a woman doctor and her son, also a doctor, and put the facility out of action.

"They bulldozed the courtyards, burying dozens of bodies of martyrs in the rubble, turning the place into a mass graveyard," he said. "This is a crime against humanity."

Hamas and medics deny any armed presence in hospitals but Israeli military spokesperson Daniel Hagari said the site had been turned into a major operating centre by the Palestinian armed groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

He said emergency patients had been evacuated from the hospital before the operation and said no Palestinian civilians, patients or medical personnel had been harmed by Israeli forces.

A person covers their face while sitting amid the rubble of a destroyed building.
A person reacts as they sit amid the rubble of Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital on Monday. (AFP/Getty Images)

He said three of the main buildings in the complex had been destroyed in the fighting — the main emergency room, the maternity ward and an annex known as the Qatari Building — after Hamas fighters refused calls to surrender.

"They're using those places, they know it's a safe haven, they know that they use it intentionally as their command and control centre," he told reporters on Monday.

He said 200 militants and two Israeli servicemen had been killed during the operation and more than 900 suspected militants detained, of whom some 500 were identified as Hamas or Islamic Jihad, including senior commanders and officials.

An aerial view shows people walking on a road amid destroyed buildings.
A general view shows the destruction in the area surrounding Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital on Monday. (AFP/Getty Images)

He said documents recovered by Israeli forces showed the hospital was used as a base to control the northern section of the Gaza Strip, which has largely been destroyed since the start of the ground invasion in October.

As well as weapons and computers equipment, cash worth more than $3 million US was also recovered, he said.

"It was a significant operation in terms of the blow that Hamas and Islamic Jihad suffered," Hagari said.

Burnt beds lies on the floor inside a burnt room.
Burnt beds lie on the floor at Al-Shifa Hospital on Monday. (Dawoud Abu Alkas/Reuters)

Hamas said Israel detained 350 people from inside Al-Shifa, including patients, and displaced people and dozens of others from nearby districts.

Footage on social media, unverified by Reuters, showed corpses, some covered in dirty blankets, scattered around the charred hulk of the hospital, of which many outer walls were missing. It showed ground heavily plowed 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.

Palestinians inspect the damage at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.
Palestinians inspect the damage on Monday at Al-Shifa Hospital after Israeli forces withdrew from the area around it following a two-week operation in Gaza City. (Dawoud Abu Alkas/Reuters)

"The place is destroyed, buildings have been burned 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?"

It was the second major Israeli incursion into Al-Shifa Hospital after an earlier operation in November.

'No sign' of breakthrough on ceasefire talks

Israel's military has also stepped up preparations for an assault on Rafah, the southern city where more than one million people displaced by the fighting have been sheltering, many in improvised encampments. In Rafah, an Israeli airstrike killed six people, Palestinian health officials said.

On Monday, top U.S. and Israeli officials discussed the planned Rafah offensive. In the 2.5-hour meeting, the U.S. expressed concern over the deepening humanitarian crisis and urged Israel to take a more targeted approach to attacking Hamas militants without launching a major ground offensive, while Israel said it would take those concerns into consideration. 

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

WATCH | No sign of ceasefire in Gaza after UN Security Council resolution: 

No sign of ceasefire in Gaza after UN Security Council resolution

2 months ago
Duration 2:00
For the first time since the Israel-Hamas war began, the UN Security Council passed a motion calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and the return of all hostages. The U.S. abstained from the vote, which allowed the resolution to pass and prompted Israel's prime minister to cancel a high-level delegation to Washington.

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."

Israeli PM vows to ban Al Jazeera

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revived moves on Monday to shutter Qatari satellite television station Al Jazeera in Israel, pledging to take "immediate action" to close the station's local office while the war in Gaza continues.

Hours after his party spokesperson said parliament would be convened to ratify the necessary law, the Knesset approved the bill allowing the temporary closure in Israel of foreign broadcasters considered to be a threat to national security.

The law approved on Monday would allow Netanyahu and the security cabinet to shut the station for a period of 45 days, which would be renewable, and would stay in force until the end of July or until the end of major military operations in Gaza.

PHOTOS | Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews protest mandatory Israeli military service: 

Neither the station's main office in Israel nor the Qatari government in Doha immediately responded to a request for comment. Al Jazeera, which has been fiercely critical of Israel's military operation in Gaza, has previously accused Israel of systematically targeting its offices and personnel.

Communications Minister Shlomo Karai accused Al Jazeera of encouraging hostilities against Israel. "It is impossible to tolerate a media outlet, with press credentials from the government press office and with offices in Israel, acting from within against us, certainly in wartime," he said.

Israeli officials have long complained about Al Jazeera's coverage, but stopped short of taking action, mindful of Qatar's bankrolling of Palestinian construction projects in the Gaza Strip — seen by all sides as a means of staving off conflict.