Israeli Army Withdraws From Major Gaza Hospital, Leaving Behind a Wasteland

Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, once the fulcrum of Gaza’s health system and now an emblem of its destruction, stood in ruins on Sunday, as if a tsunami had surged through it followed by a tornado.

The emergency department was a tidy, off-white building until Israeli troops returned there in March. Two weeks later, it was missing most of its facade, scorched with soot, and punctured with hundreds of bullets and shells.

The eastern floors of the surgery department were left open to the breeze, the walls blown off and the equipment buried under mounds of debris. The bridge connecting the two buildings was no longer there, and the plaza between them — formerly a circular driveway wrapping around agazebo — had been churned by Israeli armored vehicles into a wasteland of uprooted trees, upturned cars and a half-crushed ambulance.

The hospital was the largest in Gaza, one of its biggest employers and a shelter for thousands of Gazans during war. I had visited its wards in calmer times, meeting Palestinians wounded in a previous conflict and doctors battling Covid-19. When I returned this week, the place was disfigured almost beyond recognition after a 12-day battle between Israeli soldiers and Gazan gunmen and an earlier raid by the Israeli military.

During a two-hour visit, I saw no Palestinians, but the Israeli soldiers who brought me theresaid there were still gunmen inside one building and a group of patients and doctors in another. Occasionally, we heard short bursts of gunfire. When the soldiers brought us to a vantage point overlooking the hospital, they told us not to linger long in the window in case a sniper saw us.

Israeli soldiers from a commando unit, in Gaza City. The writing on the sign reads: “Snipers. Do not let light in.”

Back to top button