Israel-Hamas Shifa Hospital clashes: What we know, what we don't (2024)

On Wednesday morning, Israeli forces said they had entered the Shifa Hospital, the largest in Gaza, as they continue a ground offensive on the Palestinian territory, with the stated aim of eliminating Hamas.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has said they raided the medical complex, on the western side of Gaza City, to carry out "a precise and targeted operation against Hamas in a specified area" within the hospital, "based on intelligence information and an operational necessity."

Israel claims that Hamas militants have been using tunnels underneath the hospital as a base of operation for their activities. Hamas and hospital staff have refuted the accusation, with a Hamas official describing the raid as a "crime" that would create "more opportunities" for militants "to target [Israel] and inflict more losses."

While militants in Gaza are known to use an elaborate network of tunnels to move men and ammunitions around unseen, Israel has yet to provide visual evidence for its claim that a Hamas center of operations was located underneath the Shifa Hospital.

Israel-Hamas Shifa Hospital clashes: What we know, what we don't (1)

Newsweek approached the IDF via email for comment on Wednesday.

Mohammed Zaqout, the director of hospitals in Gaza, told the Associated Press that tanks had entered the hospital compound and that soldiers were in some of the hospital buildings.

"They are screaming," he said. "It's a very terrifying situation…we can do nothing for the patients but pray."

Since about 1,500 Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants staged a surprise attack on Israel on October 7, killing an estimated 1,200 people, including many civilians, according to the Associated Press, Israel has conducted an intensive campaign of air strikes on Gaza and a subsequent ground offensive. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry says more than 11,200 Palestinians have been killed, the AP reported.

Israel's intervention in Gaza has sparked pro-Palestinian protests across in the U.S. and across the globe, many of which have called for a ceasefire. Israel has consistently refused such a move and commentators have said a ceasefire would give the well-entrenched militants time to regroup.

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  • Protesters accuse Biden of "genocide" as Israel forces enter Shifa Hospital

The Shifa Hospital has become symbolic of the wider conflict, with countermanding narratives muddying the picture of what is occurring. Reporters on the ground say that what should have been a safe refuge for civilians has become surrounded by fighting as Israeli forces close in on Hamas militants in the area.

The hospital, like others in Gaza, has struggled to treat patients with limited supplies and a lack of power. Israel has withheld fuel from the territory over fears Hamas militants would use it for counter-attacks, and said that supplies it delivered to another hospital earlier in the week were stolen by militants.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, described the Shifa raid as "deeply concerning," adding: "We're extremely worried for [health personnel] and their patients' safety."

Israel has stressed it was seeking Hamas militants with the infiltration, and said it repeatedly warned the militant organization that continued military activity at the site undermined its protection under international law prior to entering.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, an IDF spokesperson, said that it had sent medical teams and Arabic speakers in "with the intent that no harm is caused to the civilians being used by Hamas as human shields." He added that Israeli forces had conducted a "wide-scale evacuation" of the hospital.

Israel-Hamas Shifa Hospital clashes: What we know, what we don't (2)

The IDF said that medical supplies including incubators and baby food had been delivered to the hospital. It has since provided images and video footage of Israeli soldiers delivering medical supplies to the hospital, including incubators.

Israel has long claimed that Hamas puts the civilian population of Gaza in harm's way and uses civilian institutions such as hospitals and schools to house military targets to maximize casualties and the international outcry over military interventions. Palestinian rights groups say Israel has unnecessarily endangered innocent lives as it seeks to eliminate the militant group, something which Israeli officials have denied.

On Tuesday, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told CNN that U.S. intelligence suggested Hamas and Islamic Jihad used hospitals, including Shifa, and tunnels beneath them "to conceal and to support their military operations and to hold hostages." Some 240 captives are thought to be held by militants in Gaza.

According to a statement relayed by the Palestinian Information Center, a news outlet that has been linked to Hamas' propaganda network, the militant organization said in response to Kirby's comments that the U.S. "bears direct responsibility" for the war, a claim which the Biden administration has previously rebuffed.

The outlet also claimed that dozens of people who had been at the hospital were taken "undressed, blindfolded and handcuffed to an unknown destination," and that Israeli soldiers "attacked a number of injured [people] before arresting them," though there is no evidence to confirm this.

One journalist told the BBC that Israeli troops had been going room to room questioning those at the hospital, accompanied by medics and Arabic speakers. He said that they later asked men aged 16-40 to go to the hospital's courtyard to be inspected by scanning devices.

Both journalists on the ground and Hamas have said there has been no gunfire within the hospital complex since the raid began.

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Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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Israel-Hamas Shifa Hospital clashes: What we know, what we don't (2024)
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