The Israeli military revealed what it said was proof that the basement of a Gaza City hospital was used by the Hamas terror group to hide arms and possibly hold hostages kidnapped on October 7, as Jerusalem seeks to dispel criticism of fighting near hospitals thought to hold terrorist hideouts.
“Hamas hides in hospitals. Today, we will expose this to the world,” IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said during a nightly press conference.
Speaking in English, Hagari presented evidence showing Hamas weapons being stored underneath Rantisi children’s hospital in Gaza, as well as rooms seemingly used to hold hostages. One room staged to look like a living room featured window curtains covering a tiled wall and a calendar of guard shifts starting on October 7, the day Hamas sent thousands of terrorists into Israel, where they slaughtered some 1,200 people and took another approximately 240 people hostage.
In an adjoining room was a chair with a woman’s robe and rope next to one of its legs, which Hagari said was evidence of constraints used.
The chair sat under a piece of equipment donated by the World Health Organization, with a baby bottle on top and diapers on the floor.
“This is a war crime, this is a crime against humanity,” Hagari said, accusing international organizations funding the hospitals of aiding terror.
There was also a motorcycle thought used by a Palestinian to transport hostages into Gaza, Hagari charged, as well as what appeared to be makeshift bathrooms, a kitchen and ventilation pipes.
Israel is continuing to investigate if hostages were in fact held in the location, with forensic teams dispatched there Monday, Hagari said.
Among the weapons found in the hospital basement were suicide-bomb vests, grenades, AK-47 assault rifles, explosive devices, RPGs, and other weapons, according to the IDF. Hagari described the area as a Hamas command-and-control center.
“Hamas uses hospitals as an instrument of war,” said Hagari in a video from the hospital basement, standing in a room decorated with a colorful children’s drawing of a tree above the weapons displayed on the floor.
The press conference came as the Israel Defense Forces closed in on Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, which Jerusalem says is hiding Hamas’s main operations center. The focus on Shifa and other hospitals has ratcheted up pressure on Israel to do more to protect Gazan civilians caught in the crossfire.
“Our war is against Hamas, not against the people in Gaza. Especially not the sick, the women, or the children,” Hagari said. “Our war is against Hamas who uses them as human shields.”
He said Israel had helped evacuate Rantisi, which specializes in cancer care, as well as other hospitals in northern Gaza, which has seen the heaviest fighting. Israel has urged civilians to leave northern Gaza for the southern part of the enclave.
Over the weekend, the IDF released audio of what it said was a call between an Israeli officer and a hospital official in which they are given instructions for safe passage out of the facility and ambulances to evacuate the infirm are promised.
“We are trying to shift the Gazans to a safe area in the south and reveal those hospitals as terror machines,” Hagari said Monday. “The world should know it. And the world should not forget those crimes against humanity done to Israel.”
He said some terrorists may have evacuated the hospital with the patients.
The alleged hideout beneath Rantisi was uncovered by the Navy’s elite Shayetet 13 commando unit and the 401st Armored Brigade, who raided the hospital as they fought Hamas members holed up there, the IDF said.
Near the hospital, next to an apartment building where a senior Hamas commando had lived, soldiers also found a tunnel entrance covered by an explosives-proof door, though Hagari did not say if the tunnel reached the hospital.
Israel has long accused Hamas of using hospitals to hide military infrastructure, charging that the terror group uses the patients as human shields, forcing Israel to scale back its offensive or risk more civilian casualties.
“Hamas systematically runs its terror machine under hospitals in Gaza,” Hagari said.
International law gives hospitals special protections during war. But hospitals can lose those protections if combatants use them to hide fighters or store weapons, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The Red Cross was attempting Monday to evacuate some 6,000 patients, staff and displaced people from another hospital, Al-Quds, after it shut down for lack of fuel, but the Red Cross said its convoy had to turn back because of shelling and fighting. On Monday, Israel released a video showing what it said was a terrorist with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher entering Al-Quds hospital. An Israeli tank was stationed nearby.
As of Friday, more than 11,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and minors, have been killed since the war began, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, which does not differentiate between civilians and fighters. The terror group’s number cannot be verified and likely include those killed by rockets misfired by Gazan terror groups that explode inside the Strip.
Hagari said foreign correspondents embedded with the army in Gaza Monday were fired upon as they left the area.