IDF drops leaflets warning Gazans to leave parts of south

IDF reveals entrance to Hamas tunnel, weapons cache found in Shifa Hospital complex

Troops also locate a Hamas pickup truck with weapons in it, similar to those used in October 7 attacks; Gallant says military has moved on to ‘next phase’ of operation

A tunnel the IDF says was found inside the Shifa Hospital complex in Gaza City, November 16, 2023. (IDF)
A tunnel the IDF says was found inside the Shifa Hospital complex in Gaza City, November 16, 2023. (IDF)

The Israel Defense Forces said Thursday that its forces uncovered the entrance to a Hamas terror tunnel in the Shifa Hospital complex.

The announcement by military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari came some 48 hours after the IDF launched a raid of Gaza’s largest hospital, where it says Hamas’s main command center is located underneath.

Footage released by the IDF showed the newly uncovered tunnel in between buildings within the hospital grounds.

Nearby, troops also located a Hamas pickup truck with weapons in it, similar to those used by the terror group in the October 7 attacks, Hagari said.

The IDF also released an image showing weapons discovered by troops inside Gaza City’s Al-Quds Hospital.

Another set of images published by the IDF showed the inside of a Hamas tunnel inside Rantisi Hospital.

The army said it was also investigating laptops and other technological devices that were found in the medical center.

An IDF handout photo showing weapons uncovered in Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, cleared for publication on November 16, 2023. (IDF)

The IDF said Thursday 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.”

Israel accuses Hamas of operating its main command center underneath Shifa Hospital.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant echoed the claim, saying that “significant findings” were uncovered at Shifa, as the army moved on to the “next phase” of its ground operation.

He did not elaborate on the findings inside the hospital.

“The operation continues and it is carried out in a precise, selective, but very, very determined manner,” he said during a visit to the 36th Division’s command center.

He added that the IDF has completed the capture of the western part of Gaza City, and cleared the area of any Hamas operatives and assets.

A laptop the IDF says was found in Shifa Hospital on November 16, 2023, with an image of rescued hostage Pvt. Ori Megidish. (Screenshot/IDF)

The IDF on Wednesday presented military equipment, including weapons, that were found in Shifa’s MRI department, and said it found an operational headquarters with communications equipment belonging to Hamas, in findings that “unequivocally prove that the hospital was used for terror, in complete violation of international law.”

White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Thursday that the US is “still convinced of the soundness of [its] intelligence” that found that Shifa hospital has been used by Hamas and other terror groups as a command and control node, falling in line with the Israeli assertion.

The IDF said the elite Shaldag unit and forces of the 36th Division were continuing to operate in the hospital complex, with the special forces moving from building to building and scanning each floor.

An IDF handout photo showing weapons discovered by troops inside Gaza City’s Al-Quds Hospital, November 16, 2023. (IDF)

While there were still patients and staff at the hospital, the IDF said it was operating with “discretion, patience and thoroughness.”

No soldiers or hospital staff have been hurt so far, it said.

“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.

Presenting findings early Thursday to two international journalists inside the hospital, the IDF told — but did not show the BBC — that one of the laptops found at Shifa also contained recently released footage, shared by Israeli police, of their interrogations of Hamas terrorists arrested after the October 7 assault.

In this image taken from a video released by the Israeli Defense Forces, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, points to a cache of weapons the IDF says were found in an MRI center at the Shifa hospital in Gaza City. (Israel Defense Forces via AP)

Entering an MRI room at the hospital, the BBC reported that the IDF said it had recovered “more than a dozen Kalashnikovs, grenades, personal protective equipment, some of it with the Hamas military brigade insignia on it — you can see some of them here, hidden under these bags of medical supplies.”

“We’re also told that there have been laptops found with some information about the hostages — recent files that suggest this may have been a Hamas operating base as recently as a few days ago,” it said.

This, IDF international spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told the BBC, suggested Hamas had been in the hospital “within the last few days.”

In this image taken from a video released by the Israeli Defense Forces on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2023, Israeli soldiers walk in the area of Shifa hospital in Gaza City. (Israel Defense Forces via AP)

“At the end of the day, this is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “Hamas aren’t here because they saw we were coming. This is probably what they were forced to leave behind. Our assessment is that there’s much more.”

The IDF also took Fox News into the same MRI room, showing Hamas publications, including one on “Military Ordnance.”

The Fox reporter posted three clips from Shifa, including one that showed the hospital’s MRI room, where weapons were discovered. Fox said it was “shown weapons in the radiology building” but no tunnels just yet.

The military’s Shifa raid drew condemnation from the United Nations, Jordan, and the West Bank’s Palestinian Authority, which called it a violation of international law.

Under international humanitarian law, hospitals can lose their protected status if combatants use them for military purposes. But civilians must be given ample time to flee, and any attack must be proportional to the military objective — putting the onus on Israel to prove it was a big enough military target to justify the siege against it.

The United Nations estimated there were at least 2,300 patients, staff and displaced Palestinians inside Shifa. At one point during the war, tens of thousands of Palestinians fleeing Israeli bombardment were sheltering at the hospital, but most left in recent days, as the fighting drew closer.

In his daily briefing Thursday evening, Hagari, the IDF spokesman, also said the military had carried out two major airstrikes on Hamas underground infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.

In one of them, a number of senior Hamas commanders were hiding, including Ahmed Ghandour, the commander of Hamas’s northern Gaza brigade, and Ayman Siam, the head of Hamas’s rocket firing array, he said.

In another underground site, Hagari said senior members of Hamas’s politburo were hiding, including Rawhi Mushtaha, Essam al-Dalis, and Sameh al-Siraj.

“Hamas is trying to hide the results of the strike,” he said. Hagari said he could not elaborate further on the strike, but that “it can be said with certainty that the underground where they were was very heavily damaged.”

Also on Thursday, the IDF said forces from the Shayetet 13 naval commandos backed by tanks and combat engineers had taken control of Gaza’s main docks area from Hamas.

The military said the forces discovered some 10 tunnel shafts and destroyed them, taking control of four buildings being used by Hamas to house its infrastructure.

“The forces eliminated 10 terrorists and cleared all the buildings in the area of the docks,” the IDF said.

Earlier, the IDF said troops of the Nahal Brigade’s reconnaissance unit had found and destroyed weapons and equipment belonging to Hamas’s naval forces in Gaza City’s al-Shati camp.

The cache of weapons included diving equipment, firearms and explosive devices.

The IDF said paratroopers also located other weapons and explosives in the northern Gaza Strip overnight, following a gun battle with Hamas operatives. It said the forces found suicide vests, other explosive devices, RPGs, anti-tank missiles and intelligence documents.

Overnight, an Israeli fighter jet struck the Gaza home of Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh — who lives in Qatar — according to the army, which said the home had been “used as terror infrastructure and, among other things, as a meeting place for the senior officials of the organization.”

Hamas has previously said the IDF hit two homes belonging to Haniyeh and his family, but this was the first strike confirmed by the military.

Gazan residents reported early Thursday that Israeli forces dropped leaflets warning Palestinians to leave parts of southern Gaza, signaling a possible expansion of operations. The military declined to comment.

The leaflets dropped in areas east of the southern town of Khan Younis warned civilians to evacuate the area and said anyone in the vicinity of terrorists or their positions “is putting his life in danger.” Similar leaflets were dropped over northern Gaza for weeks ahead of the ground invasion.

The IDF announced Thursday that three soldiers were killed fighting in northern Gaza over the past day, bringing the death toll in the ground offensive against Hamas to 51.

The soldiers were identified as Cpt. Asaf Master, 22, from Kibbutz Bahan in central Israel, a platoon commander in the 401st Brigade’s 601 Battalion (part of the Combat Engineering Corps); Cpt. Kfir Itzhak Franco, 22, from Jerusalem, a platoon commander in the 401st Brigade’s 52nd Battalion; and Cpt. Shlomo Ben Nun, 22 years old, from Modiin, a company deputy commander in the 202nd Battalion of the Paratroop Brigade.

Additionally, the IDF said a reserves officer with the Negev Brigade was seriously wounded during fighting in Gaza on Wednesday, and a reserves military member with the Gaza Division was seriously wounded during operational activity in the Gaza border area. Also, a reservist from the 75th Battalion, 7th Brigade and a reservist from the 9215th Battalion, 205th Brigade were seriously injured in overnight fighting in northern Gaza.

The war cabinet was slated to meet at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, with Hebrew media reports saying the move comes amid advances in efforts to reach a deal to free the roughly 240 hostages held by Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza.

War erupted when Hamas-led terrorists launched a devastating onslaught on October 7, in which they rampaged through southern communities, killing over 1,200 people, mostly civilians butchered in their homes and at a music festival, and kidnapping some 240 people. In response, Israel embarked on a massive air and ground campaign with the aim of toppling the terror group’s regime in Gaza, which it has ruled since 2007.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said Wednesday that 11,500 people had been killed in Gaza since the start of the war, including at least 4,710 children and 3,160 women. The figures cannot be independently verified and do not distinguish between civilians and terrorists, and also do not differentiate between those killed by Israeli airstrikes or by failed Palestinian rocket launches.

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