PALESTINIANS who fled during an ongoing Israeli raid on Gaza’s main hospital have described days of heavy fighting, mass arrests and forced marches past dead bodies.

The Israeli military says it has killed more than 170 militants and detained some 480 suspects in the raid on Shifa Hospital that began almost a week ago, portraying it as a heavy blow to Hamas and other armed groups that it says had regrouped in the medical compound.

The heavy fighting has also highlighted the resilience of Palestinian armed groups in an isolated and heavily destroyed part of Gaza where troops have been forced to return after launching a similar raid back in November.

The National: Palestinians wounded in Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip ( AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

Those who have fled the area have reported being forced by the Israeli military to strip to their underwear. Some were blindfolded and ordered to follow a tank south as more blasts thundered around them.

One Palestinian, Jameel al-Ayoubi, told the Associated Press that tanks and armoured bulldozers had ploughed into the courtyard of the sprawling medical compound, crushing ambulances and civilian vehicles.

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He also said he saw tanks driving over at least four bodies of people killed early in the raid.

The head of Israel’s southern command, Major General Yaron Finkelman, said the Shifa raid had been a “daring, tricky and most impressive operation so far”, with ”hundreds” of militants apprehended and the acquisition of valuable intelligence.

“We will finish this operation only when the last terrorist is in our hands — alive or dead,” he added in a statement released by the military on Saturday.

Shifa Hospital had largely stopped functioning following a prior raid in November.

After claiming that Hamas maintained an elaborate command centre inside and beneath the hospital, Israeli forces exposed a single tunnel leading to a few underground rooms. They also said they found weapons in parts of the hospital.

However, Israel is yet to publish credible evidence that Hamas militants were operating inside the hospital.

Gaza City, where Shifa is located, suffered widespread devastation in the early days of Israel’s offensive, launched after the October 7 Hamas attack that triggered the war.

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Israeli forces have isolated the city and the rest of northern Gaza since November, and hardly any aid has been delivered in recent weeks.

Experts said last week that famine is imminent in northern Gaza, where more than 210,000 people are suffering from catastrophic hunger.

The Health Ministry said five injured Palestinians trapped at Shifa had died without food, water or medical services.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organisation’s director-general, described the conditions there as “utterly inhumane”.

The military said on Saturday it had evacuated patients and medical staff from Shifa’s emergency department because militants had “entrenched” themselves in the building.

The army said it had set up an alternative site where seriously wounded patients were receiving care.

Al-Amal Hospital is also under heavy attack

Shifa is not the only hospital being attacked by the Israeli army.

According to reports from Al Jazeera, the al-Amal Hospital is also under heavy Israeli attack.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) confirmed on Twitter/X that the medical complex in the city of Khan Younis is being attacked, and that smoke bombs were fired at the hospital to force the staff, wounded and displaced people out of the building.

PRCS added that Israeli troops closed the gates of the hospital with barriers and that everyone in the hospital was told to leave naked.

One PCRS staff member was also killed whilst working in the emergency operations room at the hospital.

Now in its sixth month, the war between Israel and Hamas has killed at least 32,226 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

It does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its toll but says women and children make up around two-thirds of the dead.