Hamas and others operating ‘command and control node’ from Al Shifa hospital, US says

White House and Pentagon cite newly declassified intelligence

A satellite image shows Al-Shifa hospital, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Gaza November 11, 2023.  Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS    THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.  MANDATORY CREDIT.  NO RESALES.  NO ARCHIVES.  MUST NOT OBSCURE LOGO.
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The US on Tuesday said it has newly declassified intelligence demonstrating that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants have used hospitals in the Gaza Strip, including Al Shifa Hospital, to support their military operations and hold hostages.

Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said militants were operating a “command and control node” from Al Shifa.

“They have weapons stored there and are prepared to respond to an Israeli military operation against the facility,” Ms Singh told reporters.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Hamas and PIJ have stored weapons in hospitals, but that the US does not support strikes against medical facilities.

“We have information that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad use 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,” Mr Kirby told journalists aboard Air Force One.

“We do not support striking a hospital from the air and we do not want to see a firefight in the hospital. Hospitals and patients must be protected.”

When pressed about evidence supporting this claim, Mr Kirby said that “it comes from a variety of intelligence sourcing”.

He did not provide any further specifics on the intelligence.

Ms Singh said the Pentagon feels “very confident in our sourcing and what the intelligence community has gathered on this topic”.

Al Shifa Hospital – in pictures

President Joe Biden said on Monday that hospitals in Gaza “must be protected”, as heavy fighting rages between the Israeli military and Hamas around Al Shifa.

Ms Singh said “we do not want to see a firefight in a hospital where there are innocent civilians”.

The development comes as Israel has for days been circling Al Shifa, Gaza city's main hospital, claiming that Hamas was operating there. Hamas denies this.

Hospital officials have also denied the claims and say that hundreds of patients, displaced people and staff are trapped inside with little access to food or water.

International concern has been mounting amid dwindling supplies, and no electricity to power life-saving equipment for newborn babies and other patients in the enclave's largest medical facility.

Dozens of decomposing bodies were buried in a mass grave outside the hospital after they had been left outside for days.

Israel says it is intent on eradicating Hamas after militants launched an attack on Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people and taking about 240 others hostage.

More than 11,200 Palestinians have reportedly been killed, the majority of them civilians, in massive air strikes and a recently launched ground invasion in the Gaza Strip. More than one million have been displaced to the south.

The US opposes a general ceasefire, saying it would only benefit Hamas.

Mr Kirby said over the past 24 hours, 115 lorries carrying humanitarian aid entered the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, and more than 600 American citizens and their families have been able to leave.

The US has a small military presence in Israel, working out of the embassy to advise Israeli partners on hostage recovery efforts.

Ms Singh stressed there are no US troops operating in Gaza.

Updated: November 15, 2023, 6:10 AM