The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement on social media that the raid was part of a “precise and targeted operation against Hamas in a specified area in the Shifa Hospital.”
The IDF previously alleged that Hamas had built a subterranean command outpost and tunnel network under the hospital, something the militants—and hospital officials—have stringently denied. The White House said Tuesday that the U.S. had its own intelligence that backed up Israel’s claim.
“We have information that confirms that Hamas is using that particular hospital for a command and control node,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said, according to Reuters. “That is a war crime.”
Still, President Joe Biden said this week that the hospital “must be protected,” adding that it was his “hope and expectation” that a “less intrusive action” would be planned relative to the site.
After the news of the raid was announced, Hamas issued a lengthy statement blaming Biden and condemning the U.S. government’s adoption of Israel’s “false narrative.”
“The leaders of the occupation and all those who conspired with them in killing children, patients, and unarmed civilians will be held accountable,” the group said, adding later, “Gaza has been and will remain a graveyard for the invaders, and tomorrow is near for those who wait.”
Doctors Without Borders said Monday, citing a surgeon inside the complex, that there were more than 600 inpatients and more than three dozen babies being treated at Al-Shifa. Hamas has estimated the facility’s population at 650 patients and up to 7,000 civilians.
Ashraf Al-Qidra, Gaza’s health ministry spokesman, told Reuters from inside the compound that no arrangements had been made to evacuate the hospital’s babies, contrary to Israel’s military earlier promise to move portable incubators into the enclave for an evacuation.
An Israeli official involved with the matter told the wire service that he was in contact with Al-Shifa’s director, and was waiting for a response after presenting an evacuation plan.
The situation has been “dire” at Al-Shifa hospital for much of the last week amid shortages of fuel, food, water, and critical medical supplies, according to officials. On Tuesday, it was announced that more than 170 decomposing bodies had been buried in a mass grave at the facility.
“Our staff is saying there is no electricity,” an emergency coordinator for Doctors Without Borders told NPR on Wednesday. “People are staying in the corridors because of sniper fire near the windows and that they cannot move any of the patients to ambulances.”
On Wednesday, the spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that he was “deeply disturbed by the horrible situation and dramatic loss of life in several hospitals in Gaza.”
“In the name of humanity, the Secretary-General calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire,” the spokesman said.
The Daily Beast