Islamic Jihad also commanded fighters from medical center -- US

US intel assesses Hamas used Shifa Hospital as command center, held hostages there

American official says US obtained evidence that Gaza-ruling terror group largely evacuated hospital before Israeli op, destroyed documents and electronics while leaving

Hamas terrorists bring a hostage into Shifa Hospital as seen on surveillance footage from October 7, 2023. (IDF)
Hamas terrorists bring a hostage into Shifa Hospital as seen on surveillance footage from October 7, 2023. (IDF)

US spy agencies assess that Islamist terror organization Hamas and another Palestinian group fighting Israel used Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital to command forces and hold some hostages but largely evacuated the complex days before Israeli troops entered it, a US official said on Tuesday, citing declassified US intelligence.

The complex was used by both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to command forces fighting against Israel, the US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

US intelligence agencies have not disclosed the evidence on which they based their assessment. The official said the US had independently confirmed the information.

Israeli troops entered the hospital in November, making the medical center a major focus of the Israeli operation against Hamas in Gaza, which 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 at least 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and taking some 240 hostages.

In response, Israel vowed to eliminate Hamas from Gaza and end the group’s 15-year rule, launching an aerial campaign and subsequent ground offensive to meet its goal. According to Hamas health authorities, over 22,000 people have been killed in Gaza since October 7, a figure that does not differentiate between civilians and combatants and cannot be verified independently.

Amid the war, Israel has presented evidence to back up the long-standing 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 using patients as shields. The US has previously corroborated the evidence presented by Israel.

Along with Shifa, Israel accuses Hamas of using other hospitals in the Strip for terror purposes.

Israeli soldiers stand outside Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, November 22, 2023. (AP/Victor R. Caivano)

The US official said Tuesday that the American government believed that Hamas used Shifa and sites beneath it to carry out command and control activities, store some weapons and hold a few hostages.

US intelligence agencies obtained information that Hamas fighters had largely evacuated the complex days before Israel’s operation and destroyed documents and electronics as they left, according to the American official.

The US intelligence assessment was reported first by the New York Times. A classified version of the assessment was sent to lawmakers in the US Congress.

Israeli assessment’s was at least partially correct that some hostages were held at or under the complex but those hostages appeared to have been moved as Hamas evacuated, the New York Times reported.

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)

In November, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Hamas terrorists were sheltering themselves in the hospital and using the facility as a shield against military action, placing patients and medical staff at risk.

“We have our own intelligence that convinces us that Hamas was using Al Shifa as a command and control node, and most likely as well as a storage facility,” Kirby said in November. Washington had at the time not declassified the sources of the US intelligence.

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