The Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet security service on Wednesday released further evidence of the Hamas’s use of ambulances to carry out its operations, including footage from an intercepted phone call and the interrogations of terrorists who participated in the October 7 massacre.
In the call intercepted and released by the military, an apparent operative in the terror group can be heard speaking to a Gazan man, saying he “can leave with any ambulance” he wants.
The Gazan man offers to send him an ambulance if he wants one, to which the Hamas operative assures him that “there are ambulances that go and come back. I can go with any ambulance.”
The context of the call was not clear.
The Shin Bet also released excerpts from the interrogation of several Hamas members who took part in the October 7 onslaught and were captured, describing the group’s exploitation of medical and civilian infrastructure.
“Al-Qassam has its own ambulances, some of which are located on the military base. The appearance of the ambulances is similar to the civilian ambulances so that they will not arouse suspicion or be bombed by Israel,” said one Hamas terrorist.
Another Hamas terrorist said that “during combat, the ambulances are used, among other things, to evacuate fighters, commanders and operatives. They also transport food, cargo and weapons in them because that is the safest way to transport them.”
One terrorist said the use of ambulances was useful to transport “important people” such as commanders because “the Jews don’t attack ambulances.”
A captured terrorist also recalled that during their training course for driving an ambulance, a Hamas commander asked them if they would drive to a combat zone at the behest of the terror group.
“Most of the guys answered ‘no.’ To endanger an ambulance and endanger myself? For sure not, I wouldn’t go. His answer was: ‘No, you have to go,'” the captured terrorist said, adding that the ambulance must be used to help carry those with weapons or those who have kidnapped a soldier from Israel.
He said the use of an ambulance was to avoid “suspicion … so they don’t blow up, bomb.”
Another captured terrorist said that a facility underneath a school was used to store “important things, like weapons, rockets, weapon magazines, meaning the important things, and in my opinion, the important kidnapped people,” adding that such a place was less suspicious, and would avoid being bombed.
During the interrogation, operatives confirmed that Hamas members hid inside hospitals and United Nations facilities, singling out Shifa Hospital, the largest hospital in Gaza.
“For example, in Shifa (Hospital), there’s a basement level, they could be in the basement. Shifa is a big place, not a small hospital, they hide there,” a terrorist said, adding that it was used by Hamas’s most senior officials.
Another terrorist confessed that booby traps placed in buildings and mines placed along roads in a certain area were linked by electric cables to a mosque and small clinic. The operative said that if they don’t explode due to pressure, the terrorists activate the explosives manually from those locations.
An example of the misuse of ambulances was uncovered Friday when the IDF claimed that it struck an ambulance that it said was identified as being used by a Hamas cell, close to a battle zone. Hospital directors of three hospitals claimed that strikes hit just as staff were trying to evacuate wounded to the south.
Additionally, a senior Biden administration accused Hamas of trying to sneak its fighters out of Gaza in ambulances that evacuated dozens of wounded Palestinians to Egypt earlier last week.
The IDF’s Arabic-language spokesperson Avichay Adraee revealed Wednesday that a Hamas commander, Ahmed Siam, was hiding in the Ranteesi Specialist Hospital in Gaza City, and preventing 1,000 people at the center from evacuating.
Adraee accused him of “using displaced people and patients inside Ranteesi Hospital as human shields and endangering them.”
???? #عاجل وخطير للغاية ????
هذا هو المدعو أحمد صيام قائد سرية ناصر-الرضوان في كتيبة الفرقان التابعة لحماس. هذا المخرب متواجد الآن في #مستشفى_الرنتيسي غرب مدينة غزة ويمنع من النازحين المتواجدين هناك من اخلاء المكان والتوجه جنوبًا لحماية أنفسهم.
نحو ألف مدني في #غزة محتجز كرهائن من… pic.twitter.com/6P0faYmJyn
— افيخاي ادرعي (@AvichayAdraee) November 8, 2023
The military has provided extensive evidence over the years and throughout the current war of Hamas’s use of civilians as human shields. Schools, mosques, playgrounds, hospitals and apartments have been used as rocket launch sites and to conceal weapons, command posts and tunnels.
The IDF says that Shifa Hospital, the largest hospital in the Strip, stands over a network of tunnels that serve as Hamas’s main base of operations.
Indonesia on Tuesday denied another IDF claim that a hospital built in Gaza using funding from Jakarta sits atop a network of Hamas tunnels and is located near a launchpad for rocket attacks.
The IDF has been urging residents in the north of the Strip — where the military is focusing its current efforts to crush Hamas — to evacuate south through a designated humanitarian corridor.
But though many thousands have heeded those calls, tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians remain in the combat area, many sheltering at hospitals or UN schools. Some said they were deterred from moving south because of dire humanitarian conditions in the evacuation zone and ongoing Israeli airstrikes across Gaza, including the south.
Israel has accused Hamas of seeking to keep civilians in the northern part of Gaza to use them as human shields.
Hamas has accused the IDF of firing on or striking convoys of those evacuating, charges that Israel has strongly denied. The IDF instead has provided evidence that Hamas operatives are trying to prevent civilians from moving south, setting up roadblocks and purportedly even firing on convoys.
War erupted when Hamas launched a shock onslaught, killing some 1,400 people and injuring thousands — mostly civilians — and taking at least 240 men, women and children to Gaza as hostages. Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas and remove it from power in the Strip but has also had to contend with rocket fire from Lebanon and deadly attacks along its border with that country.
According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, more than 10,000 people inside the coastal enclave have been killed since October 7. However, this number cannot be independently verified and is believed to include members of the terror organization as well as civilians killed by misfired rockets that fell within the Strip.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.