IDF: Credible evidence Hamas held hostages at Khan Younis’s Nasser hospital; bodies may still be there

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

Illustrative: Palestinians dig graves at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Jan. 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Mohammed Dahman)
Illustrative: Palestinians dig graves at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Jan. 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Mohammed Dahman)

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari says the military has “credible intelligence” that Hamas held hostages at Nasser Hospital in the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, and there may be bodies of hostages currently hidden there. The military is conducting a “precise and limited” operation inside the hospital, he says.

“Since the Hamas massacre of October 7th, the IDF has been operating to fulfill its mission of dismantling Hamas and bringing our hostages home,” Hagari says in an English-language video statement.

“Sadly, we know that some hostages are no longer alive. We are committed to finding and returning the bodies of those hostages in Gaza,” he says.

The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 31 hostages held by the terror group, including the bodies of two soldiers held since 2014.

“We conduct precise rescue operations — as we have in the past — where our intelligence indicates that the bodies of hostages may be held,” Hagari says.

He says the IDF has “credible intelligence from a number of sources, including from released hostages, indicating that Hamas held hostages at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis and that there may be bodies of our hostages in the Nasser hospital facility.”

“As was proven with the Shifa Hospital, Rantisi Hospital, Al Amal Hospital, and many other hospitals across Gaza, Hamas systematically uses hospitals as terror hubs,” Hagari says.

He says that according to the IDF’s intelligence assessments, over 85% of “major medical facilities” in Gaza have been used by Hamas for terror activity.

“Because Hamas terrorists are likely hiding behind injured civilians inside Nasser Hospital right now and appear to have used the hospital to hide our hostages there too, the IDF is conducting a precise and limited operation inside Nasser Hospital,” he says.

“This sensitive operation was prepared with precision and is being conducted by IDF special forces who underwent specified training,” Hagari says.

“A key objective as defined by our military mission is to ensure that Nasser Hospital continues its important function of treating Gazan patients. We communicated this in a number of conversations we had with the hospital staff over the last few days. We emphasized that there is no obligation for patients or staff to evacuate the hospital. However, we have been urging other Gazans, in Arabic, on the phone and via loudspeakers, to move away from the danger that Hamas puts them in — via a humanitarian corridor we opened for this purpose. For the purpose of protecting uninvolved civilians in Gaza,” he says.

Hagari says the IDF also facilitated the transfer of medical supplies, oxygen tanks and fuel for electricity to the hospital in recent days, “to ensure its essential functions continue uninterrupted.”

“We have doctors and Arabic-speaking IDF officers on the ground to communicate to the staff and patients inside the Nasser Hospital. Our message to them is clear: We seek no harm to innocent civilians. We seek to find our hostages and bring them home. We seek to hunt down Hamas terrorists wherever they may be hiding,” he adds.

The IDF in a separate statement says that it has so far detained several suspects at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis.

It also adds that troops are looking for Hamas terrorists at the hospital, including those who participated in the October 7 onslaught.

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