According to what the Israeli military says is an intercepted call between Hamas commanders in the Gaza Strip, the terror group is stealing fuel from hospitals in the enclave.
The three-way phone call, a recording of which the Israel Defense Forces released on Wednesday, is between the deputy commander of Hamas’s Western Jabalia Battalion, a Hamas commander (identified as “Gaza resident”) and the director of the Indonesia Hospital in Beit Lahia in northern Gaza, Dr. Atef Al Kahlout.
The deputy Hamas commander, who is at the hospital with Al Kahlout, wants fuel, but there seems to be some sticking point. He then apparently calls his superior, the Hamas commander, to clear things up.
The commander, who repeatedly refers to fuel diverted from the hospital to the terror group, urges Al Kahlout to give the deputy commander fuel.
Al Kahlout says that a Finance Ministry official told him “last night” to give a Hamas operative 1,000 liters of fuel. “I said to him that they [the hospital] have 600 liters in the supply. He told me to fill up with 600 liters for them.”
To which the commander replies: “We’ll all working as a government for the sake of the country,” adding, “For God’s sake, fill it up for him now, people are pressuring us.”
According to the IDF, the recording confirms that Hamas controls fuel distribution in Gaza.
“Despite the sensitive nature of this intelligence, this intercept is being declassified to expose Hamas’s cynical exploitation of humanitarian resources in the Gaza Strip,” said the IDF, adding that Hamas is “prioritizing terrorist needs over the needs of their civilian population.”
Israel has agreed to let humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip on condition that it is not diverted to Hamas, and said it would stop the flow of aid if it becomes clear that it is going to the terror group.
The United States has also stated that aid will cease in the event of diversion.
“If Hamas diverts or steals the assistance, they will have demonstrated once again that they have no concern for the welfare of the Palestinian people, and it will end as a practical matter,” U.S. President Joe Biden said during an Oct. 18 address while visiting Israel. “It will stop the international community from being able to provide this aid.”
A State Department spokesman said on Wednesday that the administration had “not yet seen any diversion of humanitarian assistance once it’s gotten into Gaza,” but added, “It’s an issue we’re concerned about, it’s an issue the Israeli government is very much concerned about, so we’ll continue to monitor it.”
While humanitarian aid permitted by Israel has been limited to food, water and medicine, the State Department said on Oct. 30 that it wants fuel added to the mix.
“Fuel is essential to the delivery of humanitarian assistance, the desalinization of water and the provision of medical care, and we want to see it provided for those purposes as soon as possible,” said the State Department.
Miller said talks on including fuel were making progress.
Last week, Israeli authorities released aerial images of Hamas storage tanks in Gaza containing at least half a million liters of fuel, stressing that questions regarding shortages should be addressed to the Islamist group and not Jerusalem.
Also last week, the New York Times cited Arab and Western officials saying Israeli claims that Hamas is stockpiling food, fuel and other supplies have merit.
Hamas has been building dozens of miles of tunnels under the Gaza Strip and filling them with supplies needed for a long fight, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to compromise intelligence sources.
Hamas has hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel, ammunition, explosives, food, water and medicine, they said.