IDF says video shows Hamas tunnel near al-Shifa hospital

The Israeli Defense Forces have released video of what it says is a more than 180-foot-long Hamas tunnel buried more than 30 feet underneath the Shifa hospital complex, what they say is evidence for allegations that Hamas uses the Gaza Strip’s largest medical center as cover for its command center to plan attacks against Israel. 

Israel’s military released two videos on Sunday seeking to demonstrate the entrance to the tunnel shaft and the proximity to Shifa hospital. The New York Times reported that its journalists viewed the tunnel shaft entrance on the grounds of Shifa while escorted by the IDF, verifying its location. 

Israel accuses Hamas of cynically operating a command center under al-Shifa hospital, an allegation that the Biden administration says U.S. intelligence supports. President Biden has defended Israel’s military incursion into the hospital as justified, saying Israel has an obligation to dismantle Hamas’s ability to carry out attacks. 

In the first video, a drone appears to capture footage going down into the tunnel shaft that is at the center of an area of destruction and debris. The drone camera descends into the vertical tunnel, blocked by bent metal and concrete debris, and appears to show a metal, spiral staircase. 

Another video shows what appears to be drone camera footage from a robot, descending into the tunnel, showing a staircase, traveling through a tunnel and then stopping at a door, that the IDF said is blast proof and includes a firing hold.

The IDF said that the tunnel shaft was uncovered in the area of the hospital underneath a shed alongside a vehicle containing numerous weapons, including rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), explosives and Kalshnikov rifles. 

The IDF said it is continuing to uncover the route of the tunnel with the help of Israel’s Security Agency, the Shin Bet. 

The video footage accompanies Israel’s further incursion into the hallways of the hospital where the IDF has shown what it says are weapons caches stored behind MRI machines and in hallways and rooms of the hospital. 

The IDF has further said that Hamas had transferred hostages the group kidnapped from Israel on Oct. 7 to be held at the hospital. Israel published a video it said was taken from al-Shifa hospital cameras showing hostages – an Israeli woman, a Thai civilian and a Nepalese civilian – being held as prisoners in the health facility. The New York Times said that it verified the video footage is from the hospital but could not verify the hostages’ identities or the time of the video.

The IDF and Shin Bet, in a joint statement, said that the bodies of two hostages, an IDF soldier and a civilian, elderly woman, were found near the Shifa hospital. 

Hamas denies that it has built a command center in and around the hospital and said that the “well being of injured Zionist prisoners was meticulously monitored,” and that the hostages were treated for medical injuries before being taken to different “places of detention.” 

Israel has been condemned for carrying out its military operation into the Gaza Strip and into the hospital, in particular. A joint United Nations humanitarian assessment managed to enter the hospital in coordination with the IDF, and described the hospital as a “death zone” and the situation “desperate.” 

The U.N. team, in an assessment published on Saturday, said that 25 health workers and 291 patients remained in al-Shifa, with several patient deaths occurring over the previous two to three days. Patients included 32 babies in extremely critical condition, two people in intensive care without ventilation and 22 dialysis patients whose “access to life-saving treatment has been severely compromised.” 

The IDF on Monday said that over the last few days it has helped facilitate the evacuation of newborn Gaza babies from the pediatric ward of al-Shifa to receive medical treatment in Egypt.

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