IDF raids Gaza’s Shifa Hospital again, kills 40 gunmen including senior commander

Soldier killed during operation; military says it had ‘concrete intelligence’ terror operatives regrouped in Strip’s largest medical center; 200 suspects captured

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Hamas gunmen open fire at troops from Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, early March 18, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces early Monday morning launched a raid on Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, amid intelligence that senior Hamas officials were in the area and using the hospital to plan and carry out terror activity, the military said.

During the operation troops killed a senior Hamas commander, according to the IDF. One Israeli soldier was also killed amid a gun battle with terror operatives in the area of the hospital before dawn.

The raid was launched at around 2:30 a.m., with troops of the IDF’s 401st Armored Brigade and other units, including special forces and the Shin Bet security agency, encircling the hospital, the largest medical center in the Gaza Strip.

As troops arrived at the medical center, Hamas gunmen opened fire “from within the hospital compound,” the IDF and the Shin Bet said.

The troops returned fire, killing and wounding several gunmen, according to the IDF.

There were other exchanges of gunfire in and near the hospital, the military said.

By Monday evening, some 20 Hamas gunmen were killed inside the hospital premises and another 20 were killed in the surrounding area, the IDF said.

In one incident inside the hospital, the IDF said troops of the Navy’s Shayetet 13 commando unit killed a senior Hamas commander, Faiq Mabhouh.

Mabhouh, who served as the head of operations in Hamas’s internal security, was armed and hiding inside the Shifa complex, “from which he was working to advance terror activity,” the IDF said.

Mabhouh was killed amid an exchange of fire during an attempt to arrest him, the IDF said. In a nearby room, the IDF said troops recovered a cache of weapons.

Mabhouh, according to the IDF and Shin Bet, was responsible for the “synchronization” of various Hamas units in the Gaza Strip, including during the war.

The slain operative was the brother of senior Hamas official Mahmoud Mabhouh, who was allegedly assassinated by the Mossad in Dubai in 2010, Israeli defense sources confirmed to The Times of Israel. Mahmoud Mabhouh was chief of logistics and weapons procurement for the military wing of Hamas.

The IDF also announced that Staff Sgt. Matan Vinogradov, 20, of the Nahal Brigade’s 932nd Battalion, from Jerusalem, was killed in an exchange of fire in the area of Shifa Hospital early Monday.

His death brought the toll of slain troops in the IDF’s ground offensive against Hamas to 250.

Staff Sgt. Matan Vinogradov, who was killed during an IDF raid against Hamas operatives at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, early March 18, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF released footage (above) showing what it said were Hamas gunmen shooting at troops from the hospital premises and the nearby area as the raid began. The footage also showed a roadside bomb being detonated against an Israeli armored vehicle, which the IDF said was activated by operatives at Shifa.

Also at Shifa, the IDF said troops also found weapons and money provided by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to its operatives at the hospital.

Israel’s intelligence indicated that Hamas operatives and commanders from the northern Gaza Strip recently arrived at the hospital premises to use the buildings as a command center to manage the fighting against IDF troops and carry out attacks against Israel.

The IDF said in a statement that it had “concrete intelligence” Hamas operatives had regrouped at the hospital and were planning terror activity.

There was no information on hostages being held in the area, according to the IDF.

Several hours into the raid, the IDF said it had established control over the area, with troops surrounding several buildings at the Shifa complex while calling on Hamas members inside to come out and surrender.

Suspects were being questioned at the hospital by field interrogators of the Shin Bet and the Military Intelligence Directorate’s Unit 504. The IDF said that as of Monday evening, some 200 suspects had been detained by troops. The military claimed that some of those captured were confirmed terror operatives.

In a statement overnight, the military said troops at the hospital were “briefed in advance regarding the importance of preventing harm to civilians, patients, medical teams, and medical equipment” and that Arabic speakers were with the security forces to facilitate communication with patients and staff.

IDF doctors were also on hand “to assist those in need.” Once the operation at the hospital is over, “the IDF will continue the humanitarian effort and provide food, water, and additional supplies to the patients and civilians in the complex,” the military said.

Patients and the medical staff at Shifa were not ordered to evacuate the hospital but the military created pathways for civilians to leave the area, the IDF said.

During the raid, the IDF called on those living near hospital and residents of the nearby Gaza City neighborhood of Rimal to evacuate to the al-Mawasi “humanitarian zone” on the coast of southern Gaza.

Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee, the IDF’s Arabic-language spokesman, published a map of the zones that need to be evacuated alongside the announcement. He said the civilians must evacuate south via the Strip’s coastal road.

At the beginning of Israel’s ground offensive against Hamas, in late October, the IDF called on all Palestinian civilians in northern Gaza to evacuate south, but some 300,000 have remained since regardless.

Ahead of the raid, the IDF warned Hamas health officials in the Strip that it would not allow the terror group to use hospitals as command centers, without specifying it would target Shifa.

In an overnight video statement, IDF Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said the IDF was conducting a “high-precision operation in limited areas of Shifa Hospital, following concrete intelligence that demanded immediate action.”

“We know that senior Hamas terrorists have regrouped inside the hospital,” he said, “and are using it to command attacks against Israel.”

He said forces have undergone “specified training to prepare them for the sensitive environment and the complex scenarios they may encounter” at the hospital.

“We seek no harm to the civilians Hamas is hiding behind,” he said, adding that the IDF would conduct its operation “with caution and care while ensuring that the hospital continues its important functions.”

“We call upon all Hamas terrorists hiding in [the] hospital: Surrender immediately. Medical facilities should never be exploited for terror. Hamas must be held accountable,” he said.

The IDF has repeatedly accused Hamas of deliberately operating from civilian areas, including hospitals, schools, mosques, and shelters.

Last year, the IDF presented evidence to back up longstanding allegations that Hamas used Shifa Hospital as a major operational hub and command center and that the hospital sat atop tunnels housing headquarters for Hamas fighters who were using patients as shields. The US has corroborated the evidence presented by Israel.

These images released by the IDF on November 21, 2023, show the inside of a Hamas tunnel found under Gaza’s Shifa Hospital. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF completed destroying the tunnels under Shifa in December. Hamas’s latest alleged activity at the hospital took place in its buildings and not tunnels, according to the IDF.

Last month, the New York Times reported that a tunnel underneath Shifa was used extensively by Hamas for military operations and is nearly twice as long as the IDF had previously revealed.

Israeli troops first entered the hospital on November 5, making the medical center a major focus of the operation against Hamas in Gaza. The was was triggered on October 7 when some 3,000 terrorists stormed the border with Israel and unleashed an unprecedented attack on the country’s southern communities, killing some 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and taking 253 as hostages to Gaza, where more than half remain.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 31,000 people in the Strip have been killed in the fighting so far, a figure that cannot be independently verified, and includes those killed by the terror groups’ failed rocket launches and some 13,000 Hamas terrorists Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 gunmen inside Israel on October 7.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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