Israeli troops pull out of Gaza hospital - witnesses

3 weeks ago 27

Al-Shifa hospital in GazaImage source, Getty Images

Image caption,

File image of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City

Israeli troops have pulled out of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, according to witnesses who spoke to the BBC.

The medical facility was first raided two weeks ago after the Israel Defense Forces said it had intelligence indicating Hamas was using it as a base to launch attacks.

Heavy fighting has been reported around the hospital, the largest in Gaza, in recent weeks.

Hamas denies using medical sites to carry out military operations.

When the raid was first announced, IDF chief spokesman Daniel Hagari said "Hamas terrorists have regrouped inside al-Shifa hospital".

The IDF said then it was launching a "high-precision" operation on the grounds of the hospital and urged displaced civilians sheltering on its grounds to leave immediately.

Witnesses reported heavy gunfire and tanks surrounding the facility when the raid began in early hours of the morning on 18 March.

Al-Shifa was also raided earlier in the conflict after Israel said it had evidence that hostages captured during the 7 October attack were taken there.

Israel has long accused Hamas of using civilian health infrastructure as a cover to launch its operations, which the Palestinian group refutes.

On Sunday night, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that al-Shifa was a "terrorist lair". He praised the efforts of Israeli soldiers and said they had "eliminated over 100 terrorists" in a "precise and surgical" surprise attack.

Mr Netanyahu made his remarks prior to entering surgery to treat a hernia discovered during a routine check-up.

Early on Monday his office said the operation was successful and Mr Netanyahu was "in good shape and beginning to recover".

The surgery took place amid demonstrations held in Jerusalem fuelled by mounting anger over his government's handling of the war in Gaza.

Thousands took to the streets demanding more action to free hostages.

Around 130 people - at least 34 of whom are presumed dead - are still unaccounted for after Hamas's 7 October attack on Israel.

Mr Netanyahu is under pressure from some in Israeli society who believe there has been insufficient progress in rescuing the remaining hostages inside Gaza.

Earlier on Sunday, his office said Mr Netanyahu and his wife were meeting with the families of female soldiers still unaccounted for.

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