The IDF released a video it said showed a tunnel entrance in an outdoor area of Al-Shifa hospital, two days after Israeli troops entered its grounds to hunt for a Hamas command centre they say is beneath the medical facility.
During the raid, Israel said its troops found the bodies of two hostages – Yehudit Weiss, 64, and Israeli soldier Noa Marciano, 19 – from a building adjacent to the hospital.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed there were ‘strong indications’ that hostages were held at the hospital but they were no longer there when the facility was raided.
‘We had strong indications that they were held in the Shifa Hospital, which is one of the reasons we entered the hospital,’ he told CBS Evening News. ‘If they were (there), they were taken out.’
Israeli troops claimed they found a tunnel entrance and weapons inside a truck located in the compound – but the military has yet to release evidence of a central Hamas command centre that Israel has said is concealed beneath the complex. Hamas and staff at the hospital, Gaza’s largest, deny the allegations.
On Wednesday the IDF revealed evidence of weaponry which it said proved the hospital was a terrorist base, with spokesman Lt Col Jonathan Conricus showing a duffel bag containing an AK47 assault rifle, grenades and ammunition.
Now Hamas’s tunnelling infrastructure has been exposed inside the hospital – as well as a booby-trapped vehicle that was prepared for the October 7 massacre, containing a large amount of weapons. But still, there is no evidence of a Hamas HQ.
IDF troops belonging to the Shaldag Unit, the 7th Brigade, and additional special units are continuing to conduct targeted activity in the Al-Shifa Hospital.
The Israeli military said on Friday its troops had recovered the remains of kidnapped woman soldier Noa Marciano, 19, ‘from a structure adjacent to Al-Shifa hospital’.
The army had confirmed earlier in the week the death of Marciano, without giving the cause. Hamas said she had been killed in an Israeli bombardment.
On Thursday the army said soldiers near Al-Shifa had found the body of another hostage – Yehudit Weiss, 65.
Ms Weiss was kidnapped from her home in the border kibbutz community of Beeri, one of the areas worst-hit by the brutal Hamas assault.
Her husband Shmulik Weiss was found murdered in their safe room.
Troops of the 7th Armored Brigade’s 603rd Battalion found the body, along with Hamas military equipment – including assault rifles and RPGs in a building ‘adjacent to Shifa Hospital’, according to the IDF.
The body was brought back to Israel for identification, after which the military and police notified Ms Weiss’s family of her death.
Israeli officials say around 240 people were taken hostage during the Hamas attacks which killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians.
The IDF did not provide further details on Ms Weiss’s cause of death, or when she was killed. It is believed she was undergoing treatment for cancer when she was seized by the terrorists.
‘The IDF sends its heartfelt condolences to the family,’ it said in a statement. ‘The national mission… is to locate the missing and return the hostages home.’
‘The IDF is operating alongside and in full coordination with the relevant national and security institutions in order to pursue these tasks. We will not cease from the mission until it will be completed,’ the IDF added.
Israel’s Defence Forces previously suggested it could take ‘a few weeks’ to uncover ‘the extent’ of Hamas’s command centre beneath Al-Shifa hospital, as hundreds of commandos continue to search through every building and floor of the complex.
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.
It comes as Netanyahu admitted efforts to prevent civilian deaths were ‘not successful’ – but blamed Hamas for stopping people from moving to safer places.
When asked whether Israel’s killing of thousands of Palestinians in its almost six week war against Hamas militants would fuel hatred among a new generation, Netanyahu said attempts to minimise civilian casualties were ‘not successful’.
‘Any civilian death is a tragedy. And we shouldn’t have any because we’re doing everything we can to get the civilians out of harm’s way, while Hamas is doing everything to keep them in harm’s way,’ Netanyahu said.
‘So we send leaflets, call them on their cell phones, and we say: ‘leave’. And many have left,’ he 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.
An Israeli official said yesteday 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.
The IDF shared a picture of a laptop it said its forces found in the hospital showing a publicly-available image of rescued Israeli hostage Pvt. Ori Megidish, which was taken before her abduction.
An official said equipment found in the hospital had been taken for ‘further examination and investigation.’
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.
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.
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.