This combo shows the surgery building of Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa, before (right) and its destroyed remains after an Israeli offensive.—AFP
This combo shows the surgery building of Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa, before (right) and its destroyed remains after an Israeli offensive.—AFP

GAZA STRIP: Charred buildings and a rubble strewn expanse littered with bodies were all that was left of the Al-Shifa hospital complex on Monday, after Israeli forces ended a two-week offensive at what used to be Gaza’s largest medical facility.

The health ministry in Gaza said that after heavy Israeli air strikes and tank fire, “the scale of the destruction inside the complex and the buildings around it is very large”.

“Dozens of bodies, some of them decomposed, have been recovered from, in and around the Al-Shifa medical complex,” it said, adding that the hospital was now “completely out of service”.

Hundreds of people, including some who had been sheltering in the hospital prior to the Israeli incursion, rushed back to check damage and hunt for belongings.

Several doctors and civilians at the damaged complex told AFP that at least 20 bodies had been found, some of which appeared to have been driven over by military vehicles.

Several were found close to the west entrance to the complex, which the Israeli army used during its departure from the hospital grounds on Monday.

“The tanks went over them. Destruction. Chil­dren. Innocents. Unarmed civilians. They (soldiers) went over them,” one witness said, asking not to be named. A correspondent saw one badly decomposed body bearing tyre marks.

Following the Israeli withdrawal, the scene inside Al-Shifa hospital was one of devastation, with windows blown out, concrete walls blackened and volunteers carrying away shrouded corpses across the sandy wasteland.

The 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.

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.

Israel’s relentless aggression has killed at least 32,845 people, mostly women and children, according to the Gaza health ministry.

Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2024

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