No Hamas weapons stored at Gaza's Al Shifa hospital, says director

Israeli troops holding medics as human shields at the facility, officials claim

Israeli army video alleging Hamas weapons stash at Al Shifa hospital

Israeli army video alleging Hamas weapons stash at Al Shifa hospital
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Israel's claims that Hamas has weapons stored in Al Shifa hospital are false, the director of the facility said on Thursday.

Israel has repeatedly claimed that Hamas was using the hospital as a base and said it had entered the facility to combat militants and search for hostages taken to Gaza after Hamas attacked Israeli settlements on October 7.

But the hospital's director general Muhammad Abu Salmiya denied gunmen were sheltering in the facility.

"There was no resistance from anyone at the hospital when the Israel occupying forces were closing in, so where are the gunmen that they claim?" Mr Abu Salmiya said.

"Snipers are still around the hospital and no one can move out or from building to building and we have lost communication with our colleagues," he said.

Israeli forces have damaged the main water supply to the hospital, he said, adding that Al Shifa complex remains under siege.

On Thursday, Gaza's Health Ministry said Israeli troops were holding medical staff and other civilians as human shields at the hospital.

Officials also said Israeli tanks bombarded the coronary care unit and patient wards during the raid on the hospital, Gaza's largest, on Wednesday.

Thousands of displaced people have been sheltering in the Gaza city hospital.

Soldiers remain “holed up inside the lower underground floors of the Shifa Medical Complex and are taking medical personnel and displaced people as human shields”, the ministry said on Thursday.

The Israeli military has not yet responded to the allegations.

Hamas and hospital and health officials deny that militants were in the hospital.

The ministry said: “How can there be a command and control centre in the Al Shifa complex when it is monitored by reconnaissance aircraft around the clock?”

On Wednesday, the ministry said that at least 30 people were killed while trying to flee the Israeli raid on the hospital.

Soldiers also arrested “the only electrical generator mechanic technician and the only oxygen station technician present in the complex”, the ministry said.

The Israeli military said it was conducting a targeted operation against Hamas militants in the hospital and denied targeting civilians.

Israel said it provided medical supplies, baby food and incubators to the hospital before the raid, and gave staff a 30-minute warning before the military operation began.

On Wednesday, Israel's military posted video of the raid.

“Tonight, we conducted a targeted operation into Al Shifa hospital. We continue to move forward,” Maj Gen Yaron Finkelman, head of Israeli military operations in Gaza, said in a social media post.

Israeli troops said they found weapons hidden behind MRI scanners.

A video showed about a dozen AK-47 automatic rifles, ammunition, grenades, protective vests and other equipment troops said were used by Hamas.

The equipment on display was enough weaponry to equip a squad of about 10 men.

However, no tunnels or command centres were reported.

A security expert described the results of Israel's search for a Hamas base at Al Shifa as “not very impressive”.

Israeli writer and journalist Yossi Melman, who has worked as an intelligence and strategic affairs correspondent, questioned whether the raid had been worthwhile.

Writing on X, Mr Melman said: “Was it worth the expectation and the damage to [Israel's] international image?”

The military operation followed days of Israeli forces besieging Al Shifa.

The hospital has suffered days without electricity, water and medical supplies during the Israeli siege. At least 15 patients – including six babies – died in recent days, hospital officials said.

Why is Israel bombing Gaza's Al Shifa Hospital?

Why is Israel bombing Gaza's Al Shifa Hospital?

Before Israeli forces raided Al Shifa, UN agencies estimated that 2,300 patients, staff and displaced civilians were sheltering there.

Health officials said staff and patients were terrified when Israeli troops moved through the buildings on Wednesday.

Palestinians and rights groups say Israel has recklessly endangered civilians as it seeks to eradicate Hamas.

Updated: November 16, 2023, 2:30 PM