The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) on Wednesday said that it uncovered military equipment including weapons used by the Hamas group during its ‘targeted’ military operation at al-Shifa, the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip. They also released videos and images on social media of the same.
The operation began on the dawn of Wednesday amid continued fighting around the hospital, which is said to be “no longer functioning” due to running out of critical supplies like fuel and medicine. Israel claimed that Hamas had a major operations command centre in and beneath the facility and used the patients to provide cover for terrorists. These claims were denied by Hamas and the hospital staff.
“During searches in one of the departments, they (Israeli soldiers) located a room containing unique technological means, combat equipment and military equipment used by the terrorist organisation Hamas. In addition, an operational headquarters and technological means belonging to Hamas were located and testify to its use of the hospital for terrorist purposes,” said the IDF on X.
“In the hospital, we found weapons, intelligence materials, and military technology and equipment. We also found an operational headquarters with comms equipment… belonging to Hamas and Hamas uniforms,” The Times of Israel quoted IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari as saying in an interaction with media persons.
“These findings unequivocally prove that the hospital was used for terror, in complete violation of international law,” Hagari further said. Another military spokesperson, Jonathan Conricus, said that the weapons have “absolutely no business” being in a hospital.
Meanwhile, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza denied the claims, saying Israeli forces “did not find any equipment or weapons in the hospital.”
Israel’s military operation in al-Shifa hospital
Earlier yesterday, the IDF said that it has launched a “targeted military operation” against Hamas inside al-Shifa, where thousands of Palestinians are believed to have taken shelter. “IDF forces are carrying out a precise and targeted operation against Hamas in a specified area in the Shifa Hospital, based on intelligence information and an operational necessity… Israel is at war with Hamas, not with the civilians in Gaza,” said the military.
The hospital has run out of fuel and is believed to be no longer functioning, doctors warned of a “catastrophic” situation for thousands of patients, staff and internally displaced people still residing there.
The IDF later brought some desperately needed humanitarian aid to Gaza’s largest hospital al-Shifa on Wednesday, including incubators, baby food and medical supplies. Before entering the hospital, Israeli forces encountered explosives and terrorist squads and a firefight ensued in which terrorists were eliminated.
Meanwhile, the United Nations on Wednesday said that it was “appalled” over the Israeli operation in the al-Shifa hospital. “The protection of newborns, patients, medical staff and all civilians must override all other concerns. Hospitals are not battlegrounds,” said Martin Griffiths, the UN humanitarian chief.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed that the IDF operation to “free Shifa Hospital from the control of the Hamas terror group” points to the Israeli determination and ability to completely root out Hamas from every corner of the Strip, according to a statement from his office.
Meanwhile, the US, which supported Israeli claims about a Hamas command centre in al-Shifa, on Wednesday said that the Biden administration did not sign off on Israel’s raid on the hospital.
“We did not give an OK to their military operations around the hospital. We don’t expect the Israelis to inform us,” Kirby said, speaking to reporters from San Francisco, where President Joe Biden was preparing to meet with China’s leader on Wednesday.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), only a quarter of Gaza’s hospitals are still functioning, with about 26 out of 36 institutions now closed, due to damage or running out of fuel. The UN health agency has lost contact with health workers at the al-Shifa hospital, said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Meanwhile, Israeli defense officials said they have agreed to allow some fuel shipments into the Gaza Strip for humanitarian purposes. It was the first time Israel had allowed fuel into the besieged territory since Hamas’ bloody cross-border invasion on October 7.
The Israel-Hamas war continues
Two more Israeli soldiers were killed in the ongoing ground operations in the Gaza Strip, bringing the total death count of IDF personnel to 50. The two soldiers were identified as the Captains Asaf Master (22) and Kfir Itzhak Franco (22), reported The Times of Israel.
Additionally, an Israeli fighter jet struck the home of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in the Gaza Strip overnight. Haniyeh currently lives in Qatar. The IDF said that his home was “used as terror infrastructure and, among other things, as a meeting place for the senior officials of the organization.”’
Now, in a possible expansion of Israel’s offensive against Hamas, IDF forces have reportedly dropped leaflets warning Palestinians to leave parts of southern Gaza, according to residents. The leaflets were dropped in areas east of the southern town of Khan Younis.
Meanwhile, three gunmen were killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank after they allegedly opened fire at a checkpoint. Four people were wounded and were taken to a hospital.
According to unconfirmed reports, a Qatar official claimed that Hamas has agreed to release 50 hostages in exchange for a three-day truce with Israel. There was no immediate comment from the Israeli administration over the matter.