Israel releases ‘proof’ of ‘terror’ HQ at Al Shifa hospital

IDF raids Gaza's Al Shifa hospital

The Israeli Defence Force has released “proof” that Hamas used Gaza’s main hospital as a command centre after troops raided the compound and reportedly went from room to room interrogating people.

The IDF on Thursday morning (AEDT) released photos of assault rifles, grenades and other military equipment that it said were discovered inside the Al Shifa hospital.

“These findings unequivocally prove that the hospital was used for terror, in complete violation of international law,” said IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari.

Israeli forces entered the hospital, which is housing hundreds of patients in dire conditions without power and little food, late Wednesday (AEDT).

The troops reportedly left the complex on Thursday morning (AEDT).

Al Shifa hospital has become the main target of Israel’s ground operation, with claims Hamas fighters placed the “beating heart” of their operations in tunnels beneath it, which Hamas denies.

The World Health Organisation said raiding the hospital was “totally unacceptable” and that health facilities “are not battlegrounds”.

Israel said its troops uncovered weapons and “terror infrastructure” inside the hospital 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 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.

Meanwhile Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was visiting an army base on Thursday (AEDT) when he heralded the raid and stated there was “no hiding” place in Gaza for Hamas militants.

“Do you remember when we were told that we would not break into Gaza? We’ve broken through,” he said.

“They said that we would not reach the outskirts of Gaza City – we’ve arrived. They told us that we would not enter Al-Shifa – we’ve entered.

“There is no place in Gaza that we will not reach. There is no hiding, no shelter, no refuge for the murderers of Hamas.

“We will arrive and eliminate Hamas and return our hostages – these are two sacred missions.”

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.

“Before entering the hospital our forces were confronted by explosive devices and terrorist squads, fighting ensued in which terrorists were killed,” the Israeli military said.

“We can confirm that incubators, baby food and medical supplies brought by IDF tanks from Israel have successfully reached the Shifa hospital. Our medical teams and Arabic speaking soldiers are on the ground to ensure that these supplies reach those in need,” it said.

A senior military official said: “IDF soldiers have already found weapons and other terror infrastructure. In the last hour, we saw concrete evidence that Hamas terrorists used the Shifa hospital as a terror headquarter.”

Hamas called the claim that weapons were found “a continuation of the lies and cheap propaganda through which [Israel] is trying to give justification for its crime aimed at destroying the health sector in Gaza”.

Premature babies removed from incubators after power was lost at Al Shifa hospital. Photo: Palestinian Prime Ministry/Anadolu via Getty Images

Dr Ahmed El Mohallalati, a surgeon, told Reuters by phone that staff had hid as the fighting unfolded around the hospital overnight.

As he spoke, the sound of what he described as “continuous shooting from the tanks” could be heard in the background.

“One of the big tanks entered within the hospital from the eastern main gate, and they were, they were they just parked in the front of the hospital emergency department,” he said.

The Israelis had told the hospital administration in advance that they planned to enter, he said.

By mid-morning, he and other staff had yet to receive instructions from the troops, although the soldiers were “metres away” from them.

“They have been moving between the buildings where the troops can be seen, within the hospital areas. So, it’s getting more and more close to our building. We don’t know what they want exactly,” he said.

“The tanks are continuously moving within the hospital area.”

After five days during which he said the hospital had come under repeated Israeli attack, it was a relief at least to have reached an “end point” with troops inside the grounds instead of outside shooting in, Mohallalati said.

He was worried about the fate of his patients but unconcerned about potential clashes in the compound, saying Israeli claims that there were fighters inside had been a “big lie”.

The Israelis had used “all kinds of weapons” and “targeted the hospital directly” during their siege, he said, describing a large hole that had been blasted through the wall of a room in an outpatient building.

Topics: Gaza, Israel
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