Israeli forces entered Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City overnight Tuesday to conduct what the Israeli military said was a precision operation against Hamas.
“Based on intelligence information and an operational necessity, IDF forces are carrying out a precise and targeted operation against Hamas in a specified area in the Shifa Hospital,” the IDF said.
Youssef Abul Reesh, an official from the terror group’s health ministry, said that he saw Israeli tanks inside the complex and “dozens of soldiers and commandos inside the emergency and reception buildings,” AFP reported.
Israeli forces came under attack before entering the complex, encountering explosive devices and terrorist cells, the IDF said. During the clashes, IDF forces killed at least five Hamas gunmen. No soldiers were hurt.
The IDF forces include medical teams and Arabic-speaking soldiers “who have undergone specified training to prepare for this complex and sensitive environment, with the intent that no harm is caused to the civilians being used by Hamas as human shields.”
The army announced on Wednesday morning that incubators, baby food and medical supplies brought into Gaza by IDF tanks had reached Shifa, and that the medical teams and Arabic speakers were ensuring that the supplies reached those in need.
There was no “friction” with the medical center patients and staff during Wednesday’s operation, according to the army.
The IDF said that they found weapons and Hamas assets inside the hospital.
In recent weeks, Israel has provided extensive evidence that Hamas uses hospitals, mosques, schools and other civilian sites for their terror warfare against Israel, and that the terror group has a command center in the tunnel system underneath Shifa.
The IDF has publicized a safe evacuation route for civilians to leave Shifa and facilitated wide-scale evacuations ahead of its operation against Hamas. It has also maintained a regular dialogue with hospital authorities.
“In recent weeks, the IDF has publicly warned time and again that Hamas’ continued military use of the Shifa Hospital jeopardizes its protected status under international law, and enabled ample time to stop this unlawful abuse of the hospital,” the IDF said on Wednesday. “Yesterday, the IDF conveyed to the relevant authorities in Gaza once again that all military activities within the hospital must cease within 12 hours. Unfortunately, it did not,” the statement continued.
Israel believes that some of the more than 240 hostages captured during Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre may be held underneath Shifa. An initial search of the hospital on Wednesday showed no signs of hostages, but the IDF believes that the operation could yield intelligence leading to their whereabouts.
An Israeli security official told Army Radio on Wednesday that the Shifa operation will be widened if necessary and indicated that the military has intelligence on where the Hamas terrorist infrastructure is located.
“We are starting small, and the operation will expand as necessary,” the official said.
“The decision was that we enter Al Shifa only if we know exactly what is there and where it is, as we did at Rantisi Hospital, which was only [raided] when we knew exactly what was in its basement,” the official added.
U.S. confirms Hamas using hospitals for terror
The White House said on Tuesday that a “variety” of U.S. intelligence sources had confirmed Israeli claims that Hamas is using Al Shifa Hospital and other medical centers in the Gaza Strip to run its terror operations.
“We have information that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad use some hospitals in the Gaza Strip, including Al Shifa, and tunnels underneath them to conceal and to support their military operations and to hold hostages,” U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters aboard Air Force One, according to Reuters.
“That is a war crime,” said Kirby, adding that Washington does not support airstrikes against terror bases located in or under hospitals.
The IDF has previously provided evidence that Hamas uses Shifa and other Gaza hospitals for its operational activities, which are conducted in a massive tunnel system underneath the complexes.
Biden and Netanyahu speak about war, hostages
U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held another phone conversation early on Wednesday to talk about the progress in the war against Hamas and the effort to release the hostages held by the terror group.
The two leaders have spoken multiple times since the start of the war.
IDF ground operations in Gaza continue
Israeli troops on Tuesday located a Hamas training camp containing terror tunnel shafts, classrooms, intelligence material and dozens of different types of weapons, including rockets and loaded RPGs.
An IDF drone also struck a terror cell that had exited a building with an anti-tank missile launcher. The terrorists also placed suspected IEDs in the area. The UAV monitored them and struck the cell, killing two terrorists.
Two more fallen soldiers named
The IDF on Wednesday morning publicized the names of two more soldiers killed in Gaza: Cpt. Omri Yosef David, 27, from Carmiel, a deputy company commander in the Negev Brigade’s 9217 Battalion, and Cpt. Yedidya Asher Lev, 26, of Tal Menashe, deputy company commander in the Shaked Battalion, Givati Brigade. Both fell in battle in the northern Gaza Strip, according to the IDF.
At least 52 soldiers have been killed in action in Gaza and at the Lebanon border since the start of the Gaza ground operation on Oct. 27; 368 Israeli soldiers have died since the war started.