Israeli troops deepen search of Gaza’s main hospital for evidence of Hamas

  • US’s Biden says Israel entered Al Shifa with limited troops
  • Biden says Israel was told to be “extremely cautious” during hospital attacks
  • Two-state solution is only answer to the Gaza conflict, Israel’s occupation “a big mistake”, says Biden
  • Iran’s Supreme Leader Tells Hamas Tehran Will Not Intervene Directly, Sources

GAZA/JERUSALEM, Nov 16 (Reuters) – Israel said its forces were operating in and around Gaza’s main hospital, a key target in its campaign to destroy Palestinian Hamas militants who the army says were storing weapons and running a command center in tunnels under the buildings.

Israeli troops forced their way into Al Shifa hospital in the early hours of Wednesday and spent the day deepening their search, the army said. An army video showed automatic weapons, grenades, ammunition and flak jackets, which they said were recovered from an undisclosed building in the complex.

“Troops are continuing to search the hospital in a precise, intelligence-based manner,” Army spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said at a press briefing late Wednesday. “We will continue to do so to gather additional information, to discover additional assets and to uncover the terrorist activities at the hospital.”

US President Joe Biden said Hamas was committing war crimes by having its military headquarters under the hospital. He said Israel had entered Al Shifa with a limited number of troops with weapons.

“They were told … we discussed the need for them to be incredibly careful,” Biden told reporters Wednesday.

The Israeli military did not mention finding any tunnel entrances in Al Shifa. It previously said Hamas had built a network of tunnels under the hospital. Hamas has denied it and rejected the army’s latest statements.

“The occupation forces are still lying … as they brought some weapons, clothes and tools and placed them in the hospital in a scandalous way,” said Qatar-based Hamas senior member Ezzat El Rashq. “We have repeatedly called for a committee from the United Nations, the World Health Organization and the Red Cross to verify the lies about the occupation.”

Israeli forces attacked the Shifa compound on Wednesday evening “for the second time in 24 hours”, WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency, reported. Bulldozers and military vehicles were used, the agency said, citing local sources.

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The Hamas-affiliated Shehab news agency reported early Thursday that Israeli tanks attacked Al Shifa from the southern side of the compound and that gunfire was heard in the area.

Israel began its campaign against the Islamist group that rules Gaza after militants rampaged through southern Israel on October 7. Israel says 1,200 people were killed and about 240 people taken hostage in the deadliest day in the country’s 75-year history.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas, but has not presented a post-war plan for who will rule Gaza.

Biden said Wednesday that he had made it clear to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a two-state solution was the only way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that occupying Gaza would be “a big mistake.”

Biden told reporters he was doing everything in his power to free hostages held by Hamas militants, but that did not mean sending in the US military.

Washington has boosted its military presence in the Middle East by sending two aircraft carriers and support ships to the region to prevent the conflict from spreading and to deter Iran, a longtime supporter of Hamas, from getting involved.

Iran’s supreme leader told the leader of Hamas when they met in Tehran in early November, according to three senior officials: You gave us no warning about your October 7 attack on Israel, and we will not go into the war on your behalf.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Ismail Haniyeh that Iran would continue to give Hamas political and moral support but would not intervene directly, said the Iranian and Hamas officials with knowledge of the discussions, who asked to remain anonymous to speak freely. Read more


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Israel has placed Gaza’s population of 2.3 million under siege and carried out an aerial bombardment. Gaza health officials, considered reliable by the United Nations, say about 11,500 Palestinians have been confirmed killed, about 40% of them children, and more buried under the rubble.

Israel has ordered the evacuation of the entire northern half of Gaza, and about two-thirds of the residents are now homeless.

The first truck to carry fuel to Gaza since the start of the war crossed from Egypt on Wednesday to deliver diesel to the United Nations, although it will do little to alleviate shortages that have hampered relief operations.

The delivery was made possible by Israel authorizing 24,000 liters (6,340 gallons) of diesel fuel to be allowed into Gaza for UN aid distribution trucks, though not for use in hospitals, according to a humanitarian source.

The UN Security Council on Wednesday called for urgent and extended humanitarian pauses in the fighting for a “sufficient number of days” to allow access to aid. It also called for a resolution on the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas. The 15-member council overcame an impasse in four attempts to act last month.

Israel has so far rejected calls for a ceasefire, which it says would benefit Hamas. However, a pause in the fighting has been mooted in talks brokered by Qatar to release some hostages taken in the October 7 attack.

Qatari mediators were seeking a deal that would include a three-day ceasefire in which Hamas would release 50 of its prisoners and Israel would release some women and minors among its security detainees, said an official briefed on the talks.

Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Emily Rose in Jerusalem; Written by Grant McCool and Michael Perry; Editing by Howard Goller & Simon Cameron-Moore

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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A senior correspondent with almost 25 years of experience covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including several wars and the signing of the first historic peace agreement between the two sides.