While the Israel Defense Forces said, ahead of its raid of Shifa Hospital in Gaza, that the medical facility was a base for the militant group Hamas, humanitarian groups such as the World Health Organization called this week for hospitals to be protected.
On Wednesday, IDF soldiers began a raid of the hospital, which was already struggling due to a lack of power, food and water.
Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,200 people and taking more than 200 hostages, according to officials. The retaliation from Israel in Gaza has killed more than 11,000 people, per the Gaza Health Ministry. The United Nations has called it a “graveyard for children,” with thousands of young people and babies among the dead.
What was found
It’s unclear what Israeli forces did or didn’t discover in the hospital. In a statement released Wednesday, the IDF said it found “technological assets, along with military and combat equipment used by Hamas,” as well as “an operational command center and technological assets belonging to Hamas.” The IDF released photos it said show weapons recovered during the raid. Hamas has a history of storing weapons in hospitals, as well as schools and mosques.
The Israeli government said it found the bodies of two hostages, a 65-year-old woman and a 19-year-old Israeli soldier, in the area of the hospital. On Thursday, the Israeli government said soldiers also found an “operational tunnel shaft,” although it was unclear where the tunnel led.
Dr. Ahmed El Mokhallalati, who works at the hospital, told Reuters on Friday, "They have found nothing. They have found no single resistance, no single gunshot, against them within the hospital area."
CBS News, which was given an IDF-guided tour of the hospital in the aftermath of the raid, said an Israeli soldier told its team, “This was not just one Hamas headquarter; this was at least three headquarters working simultaneously in the city and outside the city."
When pressed for more evidence of those command centers, CBS News reported, the soldier said it was "not something you can see right now." The outlet could go only where guided by the military.
What was previously said about the hospital
On Oct. 27 the IDF posted to social media saying, “The Shifa Hospital is not only the largest hospital in Gaza but it also acts as the main headquarters for Hamas’ terrorist activity.” The Israeli government said the militant group was coordinating rocket attacks from bunkers underneath the hospital.
The United States backed Israel. On Tuesday, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters, "I can confirm for you that we have information that Hamas, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, used some hospitals in the Gaza Strip, including Al-Shifa, and tunnels underneath them, to conceal and to support their military operations and to hold hostages.”
A Pentagon spokesperson echoed Kirby’s assessment: “They have weapons stored there and are prepared to respond to an Israeli military operation against the facility."
At the White House on Monday, President Biden said he was in contact with the Israeli government about the targeting of hospitals in Gaza, adding, “Hospitals must be protected.”
What’s being said now
When asked about the intel on Thursday, Kirby said he wasn’t going to reveal it but repeated that “we're confident in our own intelligence assessment about how Hamas was using that hospital.” Reuters reported the same day that a source said the intelligence was “definitive,” citing communications between Hamas militants.
While U.S. and Israeli officials have repeated that the hospital was a base of operations for Hamas, the World Health Organization and Human Rights Watch have expressed concerns. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, called Israel's military incursion into the hospital “totally unacceptable.”
“Hospitals are not battlegrounds,” he said Wednesday.
Human Rights Watch said Thursday that "hospitals only lose those protections if it can be shown that harmful acts have been carried out from the premises.” The United Nations said it wanted to conduct an independent review.