(CNN) — Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa, has become a flashpoint in Israel’s war in the enclave, which began when Hamas militants crossed the border into Israel on October 7, killing around 1,200 people.
Palestinians and humanitarian agencies say the current fighting in and around Al-Shifa is proof of Israel’s wanton disregard for civilian life in Gaza, while Israel accuses Hamas of using the medical center as a shield for its operations. On top of providing medical care, the storied Al-Shifa Hospital has recently become a key shelter for thousands of Palestinian civilians fleeing Israeli bombardment.
Since launching its operation at the hospital on October 15, the Israel Defense Forces have shown images of a tunnel shaft and military equipment, but have yet to show conclusive proof of the large-scale command and control center it alleges is there, and which Hamas denies.
The IDF is now under pressure to prove the long-standing assertion with its promise of “concrete evidence.” Its ability to continue its operation in Gaza, and the credibility of Israel, could be at stake as the number killed in Gaza surpasses 12,000, according to authorities in the Hamas-controlled enclave.
Here’s what we know so far.
What does Israel say?
For weeks, the IDF has said Hamas uses Gaza’s largest hospital as cover for what it calls terror infrastructure below ground. IDF spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said Hamas has a command and control center or headquarters underneath the hospital complex grounds, which other senior Israeli officials have also insisted on.
In a presentation to the media last month, Hagari claimed that Hamas was directing rocket attacks and commanding operations from bunkers underneath the hospital building, which he said were linked to the network of tunnels that Hamas had dug underneath Gaza City.
The IDF also published an “intelligence-based” illustrated video of what it claims the Hamas headquarters under Al-Shifa looks like. The video shows a 3D diagram of the hospital, which moves to show an animated network of purported tunnels and operation rooms.
CNN cannot independently verify Israel’s claims that Hamas is operating a “command and control center” from the hospital.
The White House has backed Israel’s claims, saying that Hamas was storing weapons and operating a command node from the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza, citing US intelligence. But senior US officials have declined multiple times to expand on how they are able to corroborate Israel’s claims, as the US does not have a presence on the ground in Gaza.
How has Hamas responded?
Israel’s allegations have been vehemently denied by Hamas, the Gaza Health Ministry, and hospital officials.
The director general of the Hamas-controlled health ministry, Dr. Medhat Abbas, told CNN that hospitals in the enclave “are used to treat patients only” and are not being used “to hide anyone.”
After Israel launched its operation, Hamas accused the US of giving Israel “a green light … to commit more massacres against civilians” by amplifying what it called a “false narrative” that a militant command center lies somewhere inside Al-Shifa.
The sprawling medical facility of Al-Shifa, which sits in the western part …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment