Ismail Zanoun/AFP/Getty Images
A photo shows a view of the exterior of the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on November 10, 2023, amid ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas.
A US official with knowledge of US intelligence says Hamas has a command node under Al-Shifa hospital, uses fuel intended for it and its fighters regularly gather in and around Gaza’s largest hospital.
The information comes after comments by a top White House official on Sunday that Hamas is using hospitals and civilian facilities.
“You can even see from open source reporting that Hamas is using hospitals, along with a lot of other civilian facilities, for command-and-control, for storing weapons, for housing its fighters,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on CNN’s State of the Union. “Without getting into this specific hospital or the specific claim, this is Hamas’ track record, both historically and in this conflict.”
Israel has insisted it is justified in taking military action around the hospital, despite criticism from the UN and other international organisations. The Israeli government announced that it has set up evacuation corridors and called for the removal of civilians, in addition to providing fuel.
Hamas and hospital officials have denied the accusation that the hospital is being used as a command center.
The news that US intelligence assessments appear to support Israel’s claims comes as global attention is focused on fighting around the hospital, with reports suggesting that several patients, including children, have died in what the hospital’s director has called “catastrophic ” relationship.
“There is no more water, food, milk for children and babies… the situation in the hospital is catastrophic,” said the director of the medical center, Dr. Muhammad Abu Salmiya, to CNN Monday.
But Israel has insisted that patients can be evacuated from the hospital.
“There’s no reason why we can’t just take the patients from there, instead of letting Hamas use it as a command center for terrorism, for the rockets they fire at Israel, for the terror tunnels that they use to kill Israeli civilians .” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash on the State of the Union.
Netanyahu added that Israel “treads carefully when it comes to hospitals. But we will not give immunity to the terrorists either.”
The CIA declined to comment. CNN has not seen the intelligence cited by the US official.
Dr. Munir Al-Bursh, the director general of the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health, said on Monday that medical staff at Al-Shifa had rejected an IDF evacuation order because they fear about 700 patients will die if left behind.
“The problem is not the doctors, it’s the patients. And if they are left, they will die, and if they are transferred, they will die on the road, that’s the problem, we’re talking about 700 patients,” Al-Bursh told CNN on Monday.
“There has been no response so far from the doctors, but some of the displaced people and families have already left.”
The World Health Organization says Al-Shifa has been without power for three days. “Unfortunately, the hospital no longer functions as a hospital,” it said.