Israeli troops entered Gaza’s biggest hospital on Wednesday and were searching its rooms and basement, witnesses said, culminating a days-long siege that caused global alarm over the fate of thousands of civilians trapped inside.
Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City has become the main target of the ground operation by Israeli forces, who say Hamas fighters located the “beating heart” of their operations in a headquarters in tunnels beneath it, which Hamas denies.
Israel said its troops uncovered unspecified weapons and “terror infrastructure” inside the hospital compound after killing fighters in a clash outside. Once inside, they said there had been no fighting and no friction with civilians, patients or staff.
Witnesses who spoke to Reuters from inside the compound on Wednesday described a situation that appeared calm, if tense, as the Israeli troops moved between buildings carrying out searches. Sporadic shooting was heard but there were no immediate reports of anyone hurt inside the grounds.
The Israeli military released photos of a soldier standing beside cardboard boxes marked “medical supplies” and “baby food”, at a location Reuters verified was inside the facility. Other photos showed Israeli troops in tactical formation walking past makeshift tents and mattresses.
World attention has been focused on the fate of hundreds of patients trapped inside without power to operate basic medical equipment, and thousands of displaced civilians who had sought shelter there. Gaza officials say many patients including three newborn babies died in recent days as a result of Israel’s encirclement of the facility.