(CNN) — Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa, has become a flashpoint in Israel’s war against Hamas, which began when gunmen from the militant group 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 Al-Shifa Hospital had recently become a key shelter for thousands of Palestinian civilians fleeing Israeli bombardment.
Since launching its operation at the hospital on November 15, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 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.
Hamas, the Gaza Health Ministry and hospital officials have denied Israel’s claims, saying that hospitals in the Strip have only been used to treat patients. Doctors in Al-Shifa have also sounded the alarm about deteriorating conditions inside the medical facility, which is struggling to meet patients’ needs amid supply shortages and the presence of Israeli troops.
The IDF is now under pressure to prove Israel’s 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 Strip.
Here’s what we know so far.
What does Israel say?
For weeks, the IDF said Hamas has been using Gaza’s largest hospital as cover for what it calls terror infrastructure below ground. IDF spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said Hamas had 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 a 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 Al-Shifa, citing US intelligence. But senior US officials have declined multiple times to expand on how they can corroborate Israel’s claims, as the US does not have a presence on the ground in Gaza.
What evidence has Israel provided?
Over the weekend, the IDF took CNN and other news organizations to a newly exposed tunnel shaft on the grounds of the Al-Shifa hospital complex that it says was used by Hamas.
The structure appeared to be substantial, with the remains of a ladder hanging over the opening …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment