A television reporter from the Finnish Helsingin Sanomat confirmed Friday that Hamas has been firing rockets out of the Al-Shifa Hospital.
The reporter, who was not named in the television segment shot on-site at Gaza City’s main hospital, said a rocket was launched “right in the back the parking lot” of the hospital at 2 a.m. on Friday morning.
“Really, it happened right in the area, the sound of it was really loud,” she said, confirming longstanding Israeli claims that Hamas is committing war crimes in the Gaza Strip by shooting from civilian concentrations, medical centers and other humanitarian institutions.
“It’s true that rockets are launched here from the Gazan side into Israel,” she said.
Foreign press in Gaza has scarcely reported on Hamas’s rocket launching strategy during the conflict, beyond the bare numbers and statistics.
Israeli officials said last week that several Western journalists in Gaza have been harassed and threatened by Hamas for documenting cases of the terrorist group’s involvement of civilians in warfare, and expressed outrage that some in the international media apparently allow themselves to be intimidated and do not report on such incidents
The Times of Israel confirmed several incidents in which journalists were questioned and threatened. These included cases involving photographers who had taken pictures of Hamas operatives in compromising circumstances — gunmen preparing to shoot rockets from within civilian structures, and/or fighting in civilian clothing — and who were then approached by Hamas men, bullied and had their equipment taken away.
“We have no doubt that Hamas, through coercion and violence, limits the freedom of foreign journalists in Gaza,” an Israeli official told The Times of Israel. “Walking around Gaza with a camera and asking people what they think is not like walking around New York or London. People are not free to say their true opinions. It’s a bit like asking Syrians in government-controlled areas of Damascus if they like President [Bashar] Assad.”
Hamas has indisputably used violence against reporters who have covered stories it doesn’t like, the official said. And it has emphatically limited reporters’ access to aspects of Hamas operations that would reflect to its detriment. One example of this relates to Gaza’s Shifa hospital, the official added. “We know that downstairs there is a Hamas command and control center and that Hamas leaders are hiding there. No reporter is allowed to go anywhere downstairs. They’re only allowed to work upstairs to take pictures of casualties, the pictures that Hamas wants them to take.”
Shifa has indeed “become a de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders, who can be seen in the hallways and offices,” the Washington Post reported on July 15. The Wall Street Journal‘s Middle East correspondent, Nick Casey, wrote on Twitter that Hamas uses Shifa “as a safe place to see media,” but removed the post afterwards.