Gaza’s hospitals have emerged as a focus in Israel’s warfare with Hamas, with all sides citing how the opposite has pulled the services into the battle as proof of the enemy’s disregard for the security of civilians.
In 4 months of warfare, Israeli troops have entered a number of hospitals, together with the Qatari Hospital, Kamal Adwan Hospital and Al-Rantisi Specialised Hospital for Kids, to seek for weapons and fighters. However Al-Shifa Hospital has taken on specific significance as a result of it’s Gaza’s largest medical facility, and due to Israel’s high-profile claims that Hamas leaders operated a command-and-control heart beneath it. Hamas and the hospital’s employees, in the meantime, insisted it was solely a medical heart.
Al-Shifa’s worth as a army goal was not instantly clear within the days after the Nov. 15 raid, even after the Israeli army launched the tunnel video that was used to create the 3-D mannequin seen right here.
However proof examined by The New York Occasions suggests Hamas used the hospital for canopy, saved weapons inside it and maintained a hardened tunnel beneath the complicated that was equipped with water, energy and air-conditioning.
Labeled Israeli intelligence paperwork, obtained and reviewed by The Occasions, point out that the tunnel is at the least 700 toes lengthy, twice so long as the army revealed publicly, and that it extends past the hospital and sure connects to Hamas’s bigger underground community.
Based on labeled photographs reviewed by The Occasions, Israeli troopers discovered underground bunkers, residing quarters and a room that seemed to be wired for computer systems and communications tools alongside part of the tunnel past the hospital — chambers that weren’t seen within the video launched by the Israeli army.
The Israeli army, nonetheless, has struggled to show that Hamas maintained a command-and-control heart below the power. Critics of the Israeli army say the proof doesn’t assist its early claims, noting that it had distributed materials earlier than the raid exhibiting 5 underground complexes and in addition had stated the tunnel community may very well be reached from wards inside a hospital constructing. Israel has publicly revealed the existence of just one tunnel entrance on the grounds of the hospital, on the shack outdoors its fundamental buildings.
The Israeli army says that it moved fastidiously as a result of the tunnel was booby-trapped and ran out of time to analyze earlier than it destroyed the tunnel and withdrew from the hospital. Israeli and Qatari officers, talking on situation of anonymity, stated Israel needed to depart the hospital to adjust to the phrases of a brief ceasefire in late November.
American officers have stated their very own intelligence backs up the Israeli case, together with proof that Hamas used Al-Shifa to carry at the least a couple of hostages. American intelligence additionally signifies that Hamas fighters evacuated the complicated days earlier than Israeli forces moved into Al-Shifa, destroying paperwork and electronics as they left.
Hospitals are protected below worldwide legislation, even when they supply medical look after combatants, however their use for different acts which might be “dangerous to the enemy” could make them professional targets for army motion. However any motion should weigh the anticipated army benefit in opposition to the anticipated hurt to civilians.
Al-Shifa, Israeli officers have argued, is an instance of Hamas’s willingness to make use of hospitals as cowl and switch civilians into human shields. However critics say it’s also an instance of the toll on civilians when Israeli forces encompass and raid hospitals to pursue Hamas fighters or rescue hostages, operations that may lower off docs from gasoline and provides and residents from urgently wanted medical care.
5 untimely infants died at Al-Shifa earlier than the raid “as a consequence of lack of electrical energy and gasoline,” in response to the U.N. Workplace for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which helped manage the evacuation of 31 different infants.
“Everyone knows that the well being care system is or has collapsed,” Lynn Hastings, the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator for Gaza, has instructed reporters.
Israel launched its warfare in Gaza after the Hamas-led assault on Oct. 7, through which at the least 1,200 folks have been killed and greater than 200 have been taken hostage. For the reason that begin of the warfare, greater than 28,000 folks have been killed in Gaza, in response to well being officers there.
Within the face of worldwide opprobrium over its raids on hospitals, Israel has publicized proof that it says exhibits that Hamas hid fighters among the many unwell and injured, and held hostages within the services. The Israeli army stated that earlier than getting into Al-Shifa, it warned the buildings’ occupants, opened evacuation routes and despatched Arabic-speaking medical groups together with the troopers.
Hamas and Gazan well being officers say the hospitals have served solely as medical services. However past accusing the Israeli army of planting proof at hospitals, Hamas and Gazan officers haven’t immediately refuted the proof offered by Israel.
The Israeli army stated it apprehended dozens of “terror operatives” at Kamal Adwan Hospital in December, and launched movies, on the time, of males carrying weapons. A spokesman for the well being ministry in Gaza stated that Israeli forces had requested the hospital’s directors handy over the weapons of its safety guards.
After the raid on the Qatari Hospital, the generally used title for the Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani Hospital for Rehabilitation and Prosthetics, the Israeli army confirmed a video on Nov. 5 of what it stated was the doorway to “a tunnel that was getting used for terror infrastructures” on the hospital’s grounds.
However the video seems to indicate one thing else: a water storage space in-built 2016, when the hospital was constructed, in response to engineering plans and pictures from the hospital’s development reviewed by The Occasions.
The Israeli army declined to supply extra imagery to assist its assertion that this was a tunnel entryway or a part of a tunnel complicated.
Simply earlier than the Al-Shifa raid, Israeli forces entered Al-Rantisi hospital, on Nov. 13, quickly after its remaining sufferers and employees had left. Inside days, the army launched two movies that confirmed weapons and explosives it stated it discovered there, and a room the place it stated hostages had been stored. The well being ministry in Gaza disputed the assertions made within the movies and stated the weapons have been planted.
One of many movies launched by Israel confirmed troops speeding into the hospital and showing to seek out explosives, weapons and the hostage room. Within the different, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, chief spokesman for the Israeli army, confirmed off weapons, explosives and different weapons that he stated have been discovered within the basement of the hospital.
The video included footage of a bit of paper taped to a wall within the hospital’s basement. Admiral Hagari stated the paper — a grid with Arabic phrases and numbers inside every sq. — may very well be a schedule for guarding hostages “the place each terrorist writes his title.”
The Gazan well being ministry stated it was nothing greater than a piece schedule. However the calendar begins on Oct. 7, the day of the Hamas terrorist assault on Israel, and an Arabic title written on the prime makes use of the militants’ title for the assault: “Al Aqsa Flood Battle, 7/10/2023.”
Given its dimension and historical past, taking management of Al-Shifa was at all times a extra necessary purpose for the Israeli army than the opposite smaller services.
There may be substantial unbiased proof that Hamas constructed an unlimited tunnel community throughout Gaza. Senior Israeli protection officers, who spoke on the situation of anonymity to debate intelligence issues, estimate the community is between 350 and 450 miles — extraordinary figures for a territory that at its longest level is simply 25 miles. The officers estimate there are literally thousands of entrances to the community.
There may be additionally established documentation that Hamas used Al-Shifa earlier than the warfare to masks a few of its actions. Throughout Israel’s three-week warfare with Hamas in 2008, armed Hamas fighters in civilian clothes have been seen roaming Al-Shifa’s corridors and killing an Israeli collaborator, in response to a Occasions correspondent reporting in Gaza on the time. Six years later, through the subsequent spherical of preventing, the militants routinely held information conferences on the hospital and used it as a secure assembly place for Hamas officers to talk with journalists.
After that warfare, Amnesty Worldwide reported that Hamas had used deserted areas of Al-Shifa, “together with the outpatients’ clinic space, to detain, interrogate, torture and in any other case ill-treat suspects, whilst different components of the hospital continued to perform as a medical heart.”
Israel’s critics, although, countered with statements made on the time by two Norwegian docs, who described themselves as pro-Palestinian activists and had labored in Gaza through the 2014 warfare. They insisted that they noticed no Hamas presence at Al-Shifa.
Israel has additionally launched video footage, taken by the hospital’s personal safety cameras, which it says exhibits two hostages being delivered to Al-Shifa shortly after being kidnapped within the Oct. 7 assault.
The Al-Shifa tunnel was found by following ducts that ran underground from air-conditioning items that have been powered by the hospital’s electrical energy provide and mounted on one among its buildings, officers stated. Israeli troopers additionally discovered proof that the hospital’s water provide was being fed to the tunnel.
The Israeli army has additionally displayed weapons and different tools it stated have been discovered inside Al-Shifa, together with grenades positioned close to an MRI machine. Among the many cache offered to journalists have been belongings that Israeli officers stated had been taken from hostages, together with a bag emblazoned with the title Be’eri, a kibbutz attacked by Hamas.
The army additionally stated it discovered weapons in Al-Shifa’s car parking zone, and a Toyota automobile equivalent to these used within the Oct. 7 assault and loaded with the identical tools that militants carried through the raid, together with weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. Israeli officers speculated that it was a spare automobile not used within the assault.
A few of what the Israeli army has proven to date doesn’t wholly match the outline of a terrorist headquarters that it supplied forward of its floor invasion of Gaza on Oct. 27.
Beneath Al-Shifa, the Israeli army wrote in a prolonged put up on its web site, “lies a labyrinth of tunnels and underground compounds utilized by Hamas’s leaders to direct terrorist actions and rocket fireplace and to fabricate and retailer quite a lot of weapons and ammunition.”
There could not be a approach to immediately assess that declare. Israeli forces remained at Al-Shifa for a bit of greater than every week.
Hours earlier than Israeli forces left the hospital on Nov. 24, troopers lined the tunnel with explosives and destroyed it in a blast that despatched plumes of smoke excessive into the air and rocked buildings on the bottom above.