Israel’s Defence Forces have suggested it could take ‘a few weeks’ to uncover ‘the extent’ of Hamas’s command centre beneath Al-Shifa hospital, as hundreds of commandos are searching through every building and floor of the complex.
The IDF says it has uncovered ‘new findings’ which indicate ‘significant underground infrastructure in the hospitals’. But Israel’s army is still yet to reveal evidence of a tunnel network beneath Al-Shifa more than 24 hours after its forces stormed the facility.
Footage ‘relating to hostages seized by Hamas’ was found on computers at the hospital, the IDF has said, as well as a cache of weapons belonging to the terrorists.
The United Nations is now desperately looking into how it could evacuate the hospital, which is the biggest in the Gaza Strip, but says its options are limited by security and logistical constraints, a senior World Health Organization official said.
Meanwhile, Palestinian telecoms provider Paltel said a lack of fuel means all communications services are down across the besieged enclave, which has been subject to a blockade and relentless bombing campaign by Israel for weeks.
IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Conricus shows weapons and equipment which he says were found at Al Shifa hospital complex
The IDF previously shared what it called an ‘intelligence-based illustration’ of what the alleged command centre under the hospital might look like
Weapons and equipment which Israel’s army says were found at Al Shifa hospital complex
Weapons and equipment which Israel’s army says were found at Al Shifa hospital complex
Inside a cabinet for medical equipment was another holdall containing a knife, a Hamas emblem, AK47 and ammunition, according to the spokesman
In this image taken from a video released by the Israeli Defence Forces, on Wednesday, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, holds up a bullet proof vest with a Hamas insignia that was found along with weapons the IDF says were found in a medical closet at the MRI center at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City
Israeli soldiers walk at the Al Shifa hospital complex, amid their ground operation against Palestinian Islamist group Hamas
With the operation in Al-Shifa still ongoing and no hard evidence shared proving the IDF’s accusation that there is a Hamas control centre beneath it, an Israeli official today said that the mission ‘is shaped by our understanding that there is well-hidden terrorist infrastructure in the complex.’
‘During the searches, information and footage pertaining to the hostages abducted from Israel were found on computers and other technological equipment,’ an official also said, adding that they had been taken for ‘further examination.’
IDF spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht earlier claimed that ‘there is substantial Hamas infrastructure in the vicinity of the hospital’, but appeared to backtrack on Israel’s previous insistence that Hamas’s headquarters are definitely in tunnels underneath the hospital.
‘[Hamas infrastructure] is potentially under the hospital, and it’s something we’re working on. It’ll take us time. This war is a complex war,’ Hecht said yesterday.
After storming the medical facility, the IDF shared evidence of weaponry, with spokesman Lt Col Jonathan Conricus showing a duffel bag hidden behind a hospital MRI machine containing an AK47 assault rifle, grenades, ammunition and a uniform. The video failed to show evidence of any tunnels.
He also said a backpack contained ‘what appeared to be very important intelligence including a laptop’, and added that security cameras in one part of the hospital had been taped over.
Behind another MRI machine more weapons were said to have been found and in an adjoining room on top of another MRI scanner was a bag containing ‘full military kit for one terrorist, including ammunition, a live grenade and AK47 and body armour’.
‘These weapons have no business being in a hospital,’ Conricus said as he toured the hospital in a clip released by the IDF.
Inside a cabinet for medical equipment was another holder containing a knife, a Hamas emblem, AK47 and ammunition, according to the spokesman.
But the IDF’s search showed no signs of tunnels or a sophisticated command centre that many believed would be discovered underneath the facility.
News of the IDF hospital raid came around 2am local time on Wednesday.
Doctors said they were given 30 minutes’ notice of the Israeli operation before at least six battle tanks moved in on the complex. Troops entered the hospital a short time afterwards.
Officials from Israel and Gaza presented very different accounts of what was happening in the hospital.
The Israeli army released video showing soldiers carrying boxes labelled as ‘baby food’ and ‘medical supplies,’ while health officials talked of terrified staff and patients as troops moved through the buildings.
‘We have discovered weapons and other things. We entered the hospital on the basis of actionable intelligence,’ Mark Regev, an advisor to the Israeli Prime Minister said.
Another senior Israeli government official, who declined to be named, said: ‘IDF (Israel Defence Forces) soldiers have already found weapons and other terror infrastructure. We saw concrete evidence that Hamas terrorists used the Shifa hospital as a terror headquarters.’
But the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank condemned the military operation as ‘a crime against humanity’ and challenged Israel to produce proof of their claims.
The Israeli military said it was carrying out a ‘precise and targeted operation against Hamas in a specified area in the hospital,’ and that its soldiers were accompanied by medical teams bringing in incubators and other supplies.
It added that forces were also searching for hostages.
This image taken from a video released by the Israeli Defense Forces, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023, shows a bullet proof vest with a Hamas insignia that was found along with weapons the IDF says were found in a medical closet at the MRI center at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City
This image taken from a video released by the Israeli Defense Forces, on Wednesday shows a cache of weapons the IDF says were found in a closet at the MRI center at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City
Video grabs appear to show medics evacuating patients from Al Shifa hospital during raid
The IDF said Israeli troops delivered medical supplies to the Al Shifa hospital as pictured here
At Al-Shifa, doctors said patients and people taking shelter were stranded in horrific conditions in the facility
In a statement, the IDF said: ‘As the soldiers entered the hospital complex, they engaged with a number of terrorists and killed them.
‘Following this, during searches in one of the departments of the hospital, the troops located a room with technological assets, along with military and combat equipment used by the Hamas terrorist organization.
‘In another department in the hospital, the soldiers located an operational command center and technological assets belonging to Hamas, indicating that the terrorist organization uses the hospital for terrorist purposes.
‘The technological assets and extensive intelligence information located was transferred for full review by the relevant authorities.
‘The IDF is continuing to operate in the hospital complex, while extracting intelligence information and preventing harm to the medical teams and civilians sheltering there’.
The military previously said its forces have found weapons and Hamas fighters in government buildings, schools and residential buildings.
Hours before the hospital raid, the United States said its own intelligence indicated militants have used Shifa and other hospitals, and tunnels beneath them, to support military operations and hold hostages.
Under international humanitarian law, hospitals can lose their protected status if combatants use them for military purposes.
But civilians must be given time to leave, and any attack must be proportional to the military objective.
Speaking on CNN, IDF spokesman Lt Col Richard Hecht said fire was exchanged before Israeli soldiers moved into the Al-Shifa but that there was ‘no engagement whatsoever’ once they had entered the medical complex.
Israel has insisted for years that Hamas militants have used Al Shifa as a cover for their operations. But Hamas and hospital staff have repeatedly denied this.
One doctor inside the hospital, reached by the BBC, hit out: ‘Is everyone just waiting for us to die here and then say ‘we were good people’?’
Plastic surgeon Dr Ahmed Mokhallalati claimed staff and patients were fearful as IDF troops moved through the building. He revealed six premature babies had died in recent days and said around 40 others would die ‘one by one’ due to a lack of oxygen and power outages.
Israeli soldiers walk at the Al Shifa hospital complex, amid their ground operation against Hamas in this still image from handout video obtained November 15, 2023
Smoke rises during an Israeli military bombardment of the northern Gaza Strip on November 15
n Israeli soldier holds a weapon in Gaza City earlier this week
Essential surgeries were carried out on Tuesday with only light sedation, revealed the surgeon – but patients were ‘screaming in pain’. No surgery could be carried out yesterday, he said.
One patient with burns had to be left to die due to a lack of medical equipment, said the doctor. Asked if Israeli troops had brought medical aid to the hospital, he said: ‘If it was up to me, I would refuse [any aid]. They are killing us for 40 days and they want to offer me saline drips.’
Dr Mokhallalati also insisted there were only civilians in the hospital and challenged the Israeli army to provide proof of Hamas’s presence. Israeli officials have previously suggested some of the 240 hostages seized by Hamas when they went on a murderous rampage in Israel on October 7 could be held under Gazan hospitals.
One journalist inside the hospital told the BBC that IDF soldiers fired into the air and used loudspeakers to order men aged between 16 and 40 to leave before interrogating them.
Munir al-Boursh, a senior official with Gaza’s Health Ministry inside the hospital, said troops ransacked the basement and other buildings, including those with emergency and surgery departments inside, and searched for tunnels.
Patients, staff and people sheltering in the facility were questioned, he said, adding: ‘Patients, women and children are terrified’.
At one point, tens of thousands of Palestinians were sheltering at the hospital, but many have left in recent days.
The raid drew condemnation from the UN, Jordan and the West Bank’s Palestinian Authority, which called it a violation of international law.
Martin Griffiths, the UN’s chief of humanitarian affairs, said on X, formerly Twitter: ‘I’m appalled by reports of military raids in Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza. The protection of newborns, patients, medical staff and all civilians must override all other concerns. Hospitals are not battlegrounds.’
Israel has faced mounting pressure to prove its claim that Hamas had turned the hospital into a command centre in recent days.
Hamas and Gaza health officials have denied that militants operate in Shifa, according to the Palestinian news agency.
The war between Israel and Hamas erupted on October 7 after the militant group killed some 1,200 people and seized around 240 captives. Meanwhile, Israeli airstrikes have killed more than 11,200 people, according to the Palestinian Health Minister in Ramallah.
Another 2,700 have been reported missing.
Around two third of the territory’s 2.3 million people have now fled their homes, with most currently residing in the southern part of the coastal strip.
Smoke rises during an Israeli military bombardment of the northern Gaza Strip today
Palestinian man Mohammad Abu Daqa, who survived Israeli strikes that killed 8 family members last month
Palestinians look at destruction after Israeli strikes on Rafah, Gaza Strip today
People search through buildings, destroyed during Israeli air strikes a day earlier, in the southern Gaza Strip today
Palestinians look for survivers in buildings destroyed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip last month
Civil defence teams and civilians conduct a search and rescue operation under the rubbles of demolished buildings after an Israeli attack hits Hamdan family’s residence in Khan Yunis, Gaza
The ruins after Israeli bombardment at Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza City, Gaza earlier this week
Residents say bread is scarce and supermarket shelves are bare, while families have been forced to cook on wood fires due to a lack of fuel, electricity and running water.
On Wednesday, Israeli defence officials let in some 24,000 litres of fuel, which will only be used for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, in a bid to bring in the limited supplies of food and medicine from Egypt.
Thomas White, UNRWA’s director in Gaza, said the fuel cannot be used for hospitals or to desalinate water, adding the amount is the equivalent of ‘only nine per cent of what we need daily to sustain lifesaving activities’.
The Palestinian telecom company Paltel has said it is relying on batteries to keep Gaza’s mobile and internet network running.
It comes as Israeli troops have extended their control across northern Gaza, having taken control of the Shati refugee camp.
Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said that the ground operation will eventually ‘include both the north and south’.
‘We will strike Hamas wherever it is’, he said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu echoed the plans, saying Israel’s goal is ‘a complete victory over Hamas in the south and the return of our hostages.’
Israel told residents of northern Gaza to evacuate south, saying it wanted to get civilians out of the path of its ground assault, and hundreds of thousands fled.
It comes after the UN Security Council approved a resolution calling for ‘urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors throughout the Gaza strip following four failed attempts to respond to the war.
The resolution, which was approved by 12-0 with the US, UK and Russia abstaining, also called for the ‘immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas and other groups’.
It made no mention of a ceasefire, and failed to refer to the October 7 attacks which sparked the conflict, or Israel’s retaliatory air strikes.
The resolution brought the 15 members of the UN’s most powerful body together in a first response to the ongoing war.
It asks that ‘all parties comply with their obligations under international law, notably with regard to the protection of civilians, especially children’.
UN Security Council resolutions are legally binding, but in practice many parties choose to ignore the council’s requests for action.