Hamas-run health ministry says Israeli army withdraws from Al-Shifa

Hamas-run health ministry says Israeli army withdraws from Al-Shifa

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said Monday the Israeli military had withdrawn tanks and vehicles from the complex housing the besieged territory's main hospital, Al-Shifa, days after the launch of a major operation on the site.

Gaza Al Shifa attacks
Photo: Twitter: UN_News_Centre

The ministry said dozens of bodies had been found at the complex, where an AFP journalist and eyewitnesses saw tanks and vehicles pulling out.

The Israeli military did not immediately confirm any pullout.

Eyewitnesses said dozens of air strikes and shells had hit the area around the complex.

The Hamas government media office said the Israeli air strikes had provided the withdrawing vehicles with a cover of fire.

The army launched its operation March 18, and has described it as a "precise" one targeting Hamas militants it accused of operating from the complex.

It has previously said 200 militants had been killed in fighting in and around Al-Shifa.

The army has also released footage it claimed showed weapons and money seized from Al-Shifa that had been used by Hamas and another militant group, Islamic Jihad.

Hamas has denied operating from Al-Shifa and other health facilities.

"Dozens of bodies, some of them decomposed, have been recovered from in and around the Al-Shifa medical complex," the health ministry said in a statement.

The Israeli military "withdrew from the Al-Shifa medical complex after burning down the complex buildings and putting it completely out of service", it said.

"The scale of the destruction inside the complex and the buildings around it is very large."

An AFP journalist on the scene said several buildings inside the complex had been damaged, with some areas showing damage from fire.

A doctor told AFP more than 20 dead bodies had been recovered, and that some bodies had been crushed by withdrawing vehicles.

With hundreds of thousands of Gazans displaced by the war, hundreds had been seeking refuge at the Al-Shifa complex prior to the operation.

Israeli troops had first raided Al-Shifa in November, but said militants had since returned.

Deadly air strikes pounded other areas of the Gaza Strip early Monday, while fighting raged in several flashpoints located across the territory.

At least 60 people died in Gaza during the night, the health ministry said on Monday.

The war erupted when Hamas carried out its unprecedented attacks on Israel, which resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel's retaliatory campaign has killed at least 32,782 people, mostly women and children, according to the Gaza health ministry.

Palestinian militants also seized around 250 Israeli and foreign hostages. Israel believes about 130 remain in Gaza, including 34 who are presumed dead.

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