14-day siege, Israeli forces withdrew from Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa

's has vacated Gaza's primary medical facility, Al-Shifa, following a prolonged 14-day encirclement which observers and Palestinian authorities assert has resulted in extensive infrastructure damage and numerous casualties scattered throughout the compound.

Gaza (Image source: Twitter)

Confirmation of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) withdrawal was made on Monday, with statements affirming the neutralization of Hamas militants, alongside the acquisition of weaponry and intelligence materials.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant commended the IDF's “resolute and adept maneuvers,” announcing the eradication of the terrorist stronghold within Shifa.

Emergency personnel are presently engaged in the recovery of hundreds of deceased individuals dispersed across 's premises, as reported by Gaza's Civil Defense, with an estimated tally of 300 bodies discovered thus far. Pinpointing the precise casualty count poses a challenge due to Israeli forces interring bodies within and surrounding the facility, as well as obstructing nearby thoroughfares.

Raed al-Dahshan, overseeing operations at Gaza's Civil Defense, articulated the logistical hurdles impeding ambulance access to the hospital, emphasizing the extensive roadway damage in the city.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, spokesperson for the IDF, disclosed the detainment of 900 suspected militants during the fortnight-long operation, identifying over 500 of them as affiliates of Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Notably, some detainees hold key leadership positions within these factions.

Verification of casualty figures within Al-Shifa remains challenging due to restricted media access in Gaza. CNN's attempts to obtain clarification from the IDF have thus far been unsuccessful.

According to Gaza's Ministry of Health, approximately 3,000 individuals were present within the hospital premises when the IDF initiated its incursion on March 18th, marking the second such operation within a six-month period of conflict with Hamas.

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Following the purported success of their initial November operation, the IDF claimed to have dismantled Hamas' command infrastructure in northern Gaza in January, only for Hamas to reportedly reoccupy the same locale months later, prompting a renewed offensive by Israel.

Journalist Khader Al Za'anoun, affiliated with the official Palestinian news agency Wafa and CNN, described the aftermath of the IDF's withdrawal from Al-Shifa as reminiscent of a “horrific cinematic portrayal,” citing the presence of bodies strewn both within the hospital compound and its surroundings.

Inhabitants of the area have begun scouring the devastated complex in search of missing relatives, encountering entire families deceased and decomposing within nearby residences, as recounted by Al-Za'anoun.

Among the survivors within the compound, reports of malnourishment abound, with some individuals compelled to ration a single water vessel among six persons daily, underscoring the dire humanitarian conditions.

Mahmoud Bassal, spokesperson for Gaza's Civil Defense, lamented the extensive destruction and conflagration ravaging Al-Shifa, detailing the comprehensive devastation and charring of numerous structures.

Visual evidence depicts widespread devastation, with structures within the complex exhibiting signs of scorching and pitting. A substantial contingent of wounded individuals has been transferred from Al-Shifa to the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital, situated east of Gaza city.

Videos obtained by CNN depict decomposed and disfigured remains partially buried beneath the rubble, serving as a poignant testament to the harrowing toll exacted upon Gaza's largest medical facility.

Testimonials from local residents recount heavy shelling in the vicinity, with one family recounting the ordeal of their home being bombarded, resulting in the entrapment of children, some of whom remain alive but buried under debris.

Hamas has leveled accusations against Israel, alleging indiscriminate targeting of the hospital without regard for the safety of patients or medical personnel—a claim echoed by civilians sheltering within the complex.

Citing international humanitarian law, the IDF maintains that civilian structures, including hospitals, forfeit their protected status if utilized for hostile activities. Israel has long asserted that Hamas militants exploit civilian infrastructure as shields from Israeli countermeasures, an allegation consistently refuted by Hamas.

The IDF emphasizes the precision of its anti-terror operations within and around Al-Shifa, striving to minimize harm to civilians, patients, and medical staff.

Despite an earlier announcement by Gallant signaling the completion of intensive operations in northern Gaza, the IDF mounted a renewed offensive on Al-Shifa, raising doubts regarding the feasibility of Israel's objective to dismantle Hamas.

Acknowledging Israel's assertions regarding Hamas' utilization of Al-Shifa as a command center and armory, Adviser Jake Sullivan underscored the imperative of ensuring a sustained campaign against Hamas to prevent its resurgence and territorial reclamations.

International condemnation of the siege has been forthcoming, with WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus denouncing the transformation of hospitals into battlegrounds.

Warnings of an impending famine in northern Gaza have been issued by humanitarian organizations, with a UN-backed report indicating that 70% of the population is grappling with catastrophic levels of food insecurity, portending the imminent onset of famine in the region.

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