Israeli occupation army withdraws from Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital after truce: Health ministry

AFP , Friday 24 Nov 2023

Israeli occupation forces withdrew from Gaza's largest hospital Al-Shifa on Friday, the Palestinian health ministry said, on the first day of a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas.

Al-Shifa hospital, Gaza
Israeli occupation forces stand outside Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023. AP

The Israeli military raided Al-Shifa last week, targeting what it said was a Hamas command centre in a tunnel complex beneath the medical facility. Hamas and hospital officials have repeatedly denied the claim.

Al-Shifa has been a major focus of Israel's ground offensive in the Gaza Strip following Hamas-led offensive across southern Israel on October 7.

Since the Israeli raid, many of the estimated 2,300 patients, staff and displaced civilians sheltering in the Al-Shifa complex have been evacuated to the south of the Gaza Strip.

But the World Health Organization was "extremely concerned" about the safety of the estimated 100 patients and health workers remaining at Al-Shifa, spokesman Christian Lindmeier said.

The Palestinian health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra, said the Israeli military had withdrawn but the people remaining at Al-Shifa were in a battered complex whose "main generator is destroyed along with numerous buildings".

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.

"We're working on further evacuations from hospitals as soon as possible," said Lindmeier, with recent Israeli operations focusing on the Indonesian Hospital, another medical facility in northern Gaza.

Lindmeier said the latest evacuation convoy had left Al-Shifa with "73 severely ill or injured patients" including some in need of critical care.

On Thursday, Israeli occupation forces arrested Al-Shifa director Mohammad Abu Salmiya, who has been frequently quoted by international media about conditions inside the complex.

Al-Shifa hospital has been the scene of an extended Israeli special forces operation as part of its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, where the Palestinian health ministry says nearly 15,000 people have been killed, around two thirds of them women and children.

On Friday, a four-day truce in the war on Gaza began, with captives set to be released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

"We hope that this humanitarian pause leads to a longer term humanitarian ceasefire for the benefit of the people of Gaza, Israel and beyond," said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the United Nations humanitarian agency OCHA.

* This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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