Israeli claim of tunnel under Al Shifa hospital firmly rejected by Gaza Health Ministry

Israel says that Hamas has used the hospital, the largest in Gaza, as a command centre

Medics look at the damages in the smoke-filled wards inside Al Shifa hospital following an Israeli raid. Reuters
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Israel’s armed forces and Gaza's Ministry of Health presented competing claims on Sunday over an alleged tunnel found in the Al Shifa hospital complex, the biggest health centre in the besieged and bombarded Gaza Strip.

Israeli soldiers stormed Al Shifa hospital on Wednesday after encircling it and bombing areas adjacent to hospital buildings, killing scores of people, as around 1,500 people, 600 patients and around 700 staff sheltered inside.

On Sunday night, the Israelis released a video claiming to show a camera descending into a tunnel shaft at the hospital, which then adjoins a horizontal tunnel with a concrete roof.

Israel had long claimed that Hamas operates one of its main command and control centres under one of the hospital's 17 buildings, but initial searches and videos produced by the Israelis showed only 10-15 rifles and some hand grenades, and no evidence of a tunnel.

Hamas’ Health Ministry was quick to rebut the latest claim, with Mounir El Boursh, director of the Gaza Health Ministry, saying it was a “pure lie.”

Separately, the Israeli army published what it said was CCTV footage of two wounded hostages being taken into the hospital following the October 7 attack into southern Israel.

The Israelis said two hostages, “a Nepalese civilian and a Thai civilian, were abducted from Israeli territory and are seen surrounded by armed Hamas terrorists”. Hamas said it has already mentioned taking wounded hostages to hospital and that the footage was not a new revelation.

"We have released images of all that and the army spokesman is acting as if he has discovered something incredible," Hamas spokesman Izzat Al Rishq said in a statement.

Gaza’s Ministry of Health also rejected the claim that Al Shifa was used by Hamas, but added that if there had been wounded hostages taken there, it was a sign that health services were offering support to everyone affected by the crisis.

Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al Qudra said that “given what the Israeli occupation reported, this confirms that the Ministry of Health hospitals provide medical services to everyone who deserves them, regardless of their gender and race", although he said the "authenticity of the pictures and videos that were shown cannot be verified".

The Israeli army also said that Noa Marciano, an Israeli soldier who was apparently wounded in an Israeli air strike, was murdered “at Al Shifa hospital” by Hamas, a claim also denied by Mr Al Qudra.

Updated: November 20, 2023, 5:31 AM