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Israeli military withdraws from Shifa Hospital amid protesters calling for Benjamin Netanyahu’s removal

The Israeli military withdrew from Gaza’s largest hospital after two weeks of “close-quarter” fighting in which it claimed hundreds of militants were killed or arrested.

Military spokesperson Daniel Hagari claimed that 200 Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters were killed, 900 were arrested and £2.4m in foreign currency and weapons were seized during the assault on Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza.

Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to “destroy” Hamas and press ahead with a ground offensive in Rafah, southern Gaza, despite thousands of protesters calling for his removal in recent days.

Israel has accused Hamas of using hospitals for military purposes and has raided several medical facilities. Health officials in Gaza deny those allegations.

More than 20 patients died and hundreds were trapped inside the hospital during the raid, according to the World Health Organisation.

Palestinians inspect rubble surrounding Shifa hospital, where Israel claims Hamas militants hide with weapons and money (Reuters)
Palestinians inspect rubble surrounding Shifa hospital, where Israel claims Hamas militants hide with weapons and money (Reuters)

Meanwhile, Syrian authorities said an Israeli strike destroyed the Iranian consulate building in Damascus, killing and wounding several people.

Pictures showed smoke and dust rising from the multi-storey building, which was next to the Iranian embassy on a highway in the western Mezzeh district

Reports said the strike killed Iranian military adviser General Ali Reza Zahdi, who led the elite Quds Force in Lebanon and Syria until 2016.

Mr Netanyahu said on Sunday that nothing would stop Israel’s offensive into Rafah, which aid agencies have claimed would cause a humanitarian catastrophe.

He said: “Nothing will stop us, once we do that [evacuate civilians], not American pressure and nothing else. If we do not destroy those battalions of Hamas there we cannot actually win because otherwise it is an existential threat against the state of Israel.”

Palestinians walk through the destruction left by the Israeli air and ground offensive on the Gaza Strip near Shifa Hospital in Gaza City (AP)
Palestinians walk through the destruction left by the Israeli air and ground offensive on the Gaza Strip near Shifa Hospital in Gaza City (AP)

The speech was made as protesters gathered in Jerusalem to urge the government to reach a deal to free dozens of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.

The crowd of protesters stretched for blocks around the Knesset, or parliament building, and organisers vowed to continue the demonstration for several days.

They urged the government to cancel an upcoming parliamentary recess and to hold new elections nearly two years ahead of schedule.

Demonstrator Einav Moses, whose father-in-law Gadi Moses is held hostage, said: “After six months, it seems like the government understands that Bibi Netanyahu is an obstacle.

“Like he doesn’t really want to bring them back, that they have failed in this mission.”

Two Palestinians walk amid rubble left by the Israeli assault on Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza (AFP via Getty Images)
Two Palestinians walk amid rubble left by the Israeli assault on Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza (AFP via Getty Images)

Hamas and other militants are still believed to be holding some 100 hostages and the remains of 30 others, after freeing most of the rest during a ceasefire last November in exchange for the release of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

In his address, Mr Netanyahu also said he understood the pain of the hostages’ families: “I will do everything to bring the hostages home.”

He also said calling new elections – in what he described as a moment before victory – would paralyse Israel for six to eight months and would freeze the hostage talks.

The conflict began on 7 October when Hamas militants stormed into southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people - mostly civilians - and taking around 250 people hostage.

Israel responded with an air, land and sea offensive that has killed at least 32,845 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. The ministry says women and children have made up around two-thirds of those killed.

The war has displaced most of the territory’s population and driven a third of its residents to the brink of famine. Northern Gaza, where Shifa is located, has suffered vast destruction and has been largely isolated since October, leading to widespread hunger.

Only a third of Gaza’s hospitals are even partially functioning, while Israeli strikes kill and wound dozens of people every day. Doctors say they are often forced to operate without anaesthetic and other crucial supplies.