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IDF Tries Again To Show Hamas Misuse of Al-Shifa Hospital

After the IDF’s first effort to “prove” that Hamas used the Al-Shifa Hospital for military purposes fell flat, they tried again yesterday. The IDF asserted they had “clear information” indicating a connection between Hamas activity in the Al-Shifa Hospital and the hostages currently being held in the Gaza Strip, as well as “new findings” indicating a Hamas tunnel network under the complex. The army said it was investigating laptops and other technological devices that were found in the medical center.

But the Times of Israel reports that the IDF had to backtrack on an earlier claim, that it found evidence that one of the laptops it found contained photos and videos of hostages taken after their Oct. 7 abduction to Gaza. It turned out that the photos at issue were publicly available on the internet.

The IDF asserted that its latest scans of the hospital led to the uncovering of “new findings … indicating significant underground infrastructure in the hospitals and our forces are working to uncover them.” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant echoed the IDF claim, saying that “significant findings” were uncovered at Al-Shifa, as the army moved on to the “next phase” of its ground operation, but he refused to elaborate on the findings inside the hospital.

Yesterday, later in the day, the IDF said it uncovered the entrance to a Hamas tunnel in Al-Shifa Hospital complex. Footage released by the IDF showed the tunnel in between buildings in the hospital grounds. There’s no indication in the Times of Israel coverage, however, that this new tunnel was connected to any Hamas tunnel network. “We operate with the understanding that there is much more terror infrastructure in the area of the complex that is well hidden,” the IDF said.

Human Rights Watch called the IDF “evidence” insufficient. “Hospitals have special protections under international humanitarian law. Doctors, nurses, ambulances and other hospital staff must be permitted to do their work and patients must be protected,” Human Rights Watch UN director Louis Charbonneau told Reuters. “Hospitals only lose those protections if it can be shown that harmful acts have been carried out from the premises. The Israeli government hasn’t provided any evidence of that.”

Despite the failure of the IDF to make its case, the Biden Administration is still saying that it’s convinced that Hamas used the hospital for military purposes. “We have our own intelligence that convinces us that Hamas was using Al-Shifa as a command-and-control node and most likely as well as a storage facility,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters in San Francisco. “They were sheltering themselves in a hospital, using the hospital as a shield against military action and placing the patients and medical staff at a greater risk,” he continued. “We are still convinced of the soundness of that intelligence.”