U.S. intelligence confirms Hamas operated command centre at Gaza hospital

On January 2, a senior U.S. intelligence official said Hamas directed terror campaigns, stored weapons and held 'at least a few hostages' at al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) also released video evidence of an extensive tunnel network under the medical complex.

U.S. intelligence confirms Hamas operated command centre at Gaza hospital
AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano, File
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Israeli claims of Hamas operating a command centre under a Gaza hospital have been independently verified by the U.S. government.

On January 2, a senior U.S. intelligence official said they are convinced Hamas directed terrorist campaigns, stored weapons and held "at least a few hostages" at al-Shifa Hospital.

According to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the terror group held at least three of their 240 hostages at the medical complex.

They released video evidence in late November of an extensive tunnel network under the hospital, claiming it "unequivocally" proves that Hamas "systematically operates from hospitals."

As reported by the National Post, the official said U.S. intelligence had confirmation that Hamas, the governing body of Gaza, destroyed evidence before the IDF commenced a military operation at al-Shifa.

On December 23, Israeli forces arrested the hospital’s director, Muhammad Abu Salmiya, for permitting terrorist activity under his management.

"Findings of his involvement in terrorist activity will determine whether he will be subject to further ISA [Israel Security Agency, i.e. Shin Bet] questioning," the IDF said in a statement. Hamas and staff at the hospital have repeatedly denied the claim.

Critics external to the deteriorating situation in northern Gaza continue to deny the IDF accusation, claiming they have little evidence that Hamas used the hospital as a command post.

Among them include a humanitarian team led by the World Health Organization (WHO), which visited al-Shifa immediately after Israeli forces stormed the hospital, calling it a 'death zone,' the New York Times reported.

"In the weeks since the operation, news organizations have continued to raise questions about Hamas’s presence at the hospital. And health and humanitarian organizations have criticized the Israeli operation," said the publication.

On November 14, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lauded "the human tragedy unfolding in Gaza" as "heart wrenching." He specifically condemned the suffering around the Al-Shifa Hospital.

"I have been clear that the 'price of justice' cannot be the continued suffering of all Palestinian civilians. Even wars have rules," he told reporters at the time.

According to Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, the IDF remained in constant communication with hospital staff during their military campaign.

On November 13, Israeli forces announced they would evacuate infants from the medical complex following reports of a premature baby who died at the hospital due to power failure.

Gaza has been bombarded with airstrikes since Hamas raided southern Israel on October 7, killing approximately 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals. 

The Jewish state launched a military campaign in the coming weeks that reportedly claimed the lives of more than 21,900 Palestinians, according to local authorities. Two-thirds of those casualties have been women and children, it says. 

Hundreds of thousands of others remain displaced to the south, reported the Canadian Press.

Last November, Trudeau urged Israel to exercise "maximum restraint" in its operations, in which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clarified they are not "deliberately targeting civilians."

"While Israel is doing everything to keep civilians out of harm's way, Hamas is doing everything to keep them in harm's way," he said.

Canada’s prime minister has flip-flopped repeatedly on the war, first calling for a "sustained humanitarian pause" and not a ceasefire.

But on December 12, Trudeau penned a letter alongside the leaders of Australia and New Zealand, demanding an end to hostilities between the Jewish state and Gaza.

On December 20, Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official, said he appreciated the "growing cause by several Western governments" for a ceasefire. Israeli officials have said there will be no ceasefire without the return of hostages by Hamas.

Tensions exacerbated further on October 17, after an explosion near al-Ahli Hospital allegedly killed hundreds according to Hamas, prompting members of Trudeau's cabinet to imply Israel caused the unwarranted blast.

"Bombing a hospital is an unthinkable act, and there is no doubt that doing so is absolutely illegal," said Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly on November 15.

"There can be no justification to strike a hospital nor civilians," added Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne.

Four days later, the federal government changed their tone on the international incident.

In a statement by Defence Minister Bill Blair, the federal government believes with a "high degree of confidence" that an “errant rocket” fired within Gaza is the likely culprit.

An independent review by the Department of National Defence (DND) confirmed Israel did not strike al-Ahli Hospital.

"This assessment is informed by an analysis of the blast damage to the hospital complex, including adjacent buildings and the area surrounding the hospital, as well as the flight pattern of the incoming munition," reads a written statement from the DND.

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