9:12 a.m. ET, November 15, 2023
What we know so far about Israel’s raid on Al-Shifa hospital
From CNN’s Sophie Tanno
Israel Defense Forces via Reuters
Israel said its military launched a “targeted” operation against Hamas early Wednesday morning inside Gaza’s main hospital, Al-Shifa, after accusing the terror group of using the medical center as a command base.
Conditions at the hospital have deteriorated rapidly in recent days amid intense fighting, with doctors warning of a “catastrophic” situation for patients, staff and displaced people still inside.
Here’s what we know so far:
The Raid: The Israel Defense Forces said it had begun “a precise and targeted operation” against Hamas at Al-Shifa, with fighting ongoing.
Israeli tanks and military vehicles were “inside the courtyard of Al-Shifa Hospital,” Khader Al Za’anoun, a reporter for the Palestinian news agency, Wafa, told CNN.
A doctor inside Al-Shifa told CNN they were given 30 minutes’ warning before the Israeli operation began.
“We were told to stay away from the windows and balconies. We can hear the armored vehicles, they are very close to the entrance to the complex,” said Dr. Khaled Abu Samra.
The director general of Gaza Hospitals Mohammad Zaqout said the Israeli military entered the ground floor and basement of the operation building of the Al Shifa hospital complex.
Speaking to Al Jazeera Arabic, Zaqout claimed that the IDF interrogated medical teams, patients and their companions.
“Some of the escorts were forced to take off their clothes,” said Zaqout, who is not at the hospital but spoke to doctors in al-Shifa.
Zaqout said Israeli tanks had begun to leave the complex.
A senior Israeli defense official, speaking to reporters early Wednesday afternoon, said they had no information that people inside the hospital had been interrogated, although the official acknowledged the operation was still ongoing at the time of the briefing.
Why is Israel doing this? Israel has accused Hamas of using the Al-Shifa hospital as a command and control base.
Hospitals are protected in wartime under international humanitarian law, but Israel said in a statement that Hamas’ “continued military use of the Shifa hospital jeopardizes its protected status.”
The United States on Tuesday cited intelligence indicating that Hamas has a command node under the hospital that appears to support Israel’s claim.
The Pentagon said the United States has recently declassified intelligence that claims to show that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad used hospitals – including Al-Shifa – as a “way to hide and support their military operations and hold hostages.”
CNN cannot independently verify the US or Israeli claims.
The IDF says so far no hostages have been found inside Al-Shifa. One of Israel’s goals in the conflict is to rescue the more than 200 people captured by Hamas.
What Palestinian officials say: The Palestinian Minister of Health, Dr. Mai Al-Kaila has said that the Israeli army’s raid represents “a new crime against humanity, medical staff and patients” and could have “catastrophic consequences” for patients and medical staff.
Her health ministry is based in Ramallah and falls under Palestinian Authority (PA) control – and is separate from the Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza.
A statement from Hamas blamed both Israel and the United States for the Israeli army’s raid on the hospital. Backing what it called Israel’s “false narrative” – that Hamas was using Al-Shifa as a command and control base – it said the US had given Israel the “green light … to commit more massacres against civilians.”
Humanitarian situation: Doctors and journalists have described dire conditions inside Al-Shifa, including desperate efforts to keep premature babies alive and limited procedures taking place by candlelight.
Journalist Al Za’anoun said people inside the hospital “are starving, there is no food or drinking water, we barely get tap water for an hour a day.”
He said dozens of bodies have to be buried in a mass grave in the courtyard of the hospital complex as relatives cannot leave to bury their loved ones.
“The scene is horrific, the smell of the dead people is unbearable, most of the bodies are of women and children,” Al Za’anoun told CNN.
Thousands of Palestinians are believed to be seeking shelter in and around Al-Shifa, trying to escape Israel’s air and ground offensive.