Israel is preparing the world for the moment it needs to enter Hamas’s main headquarters, located inside and underneath Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, and is focusing media efforts on exposing the terror group’s activities there.
According to Israel Defense Forces Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, Israel has “concrete evidence” that “hundreds” of terrorists flooded into the hospital to hide from Israeli retaliation following Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre.
Israel released video footage on Friday in which a captured Hamas terrorist—a member of the Nukhba force, Hamas’s “special forces” unit—who took part in the Oct. 7 assault admits Hamas uses the hospital as its main operations center.
In his testimony, he explains that Hamas’s headquarters are located there “to exploit them for their use. … So you won’t strike them. And then they can pass … explosives, weapons, food, medical equipment for them.”
Hamas terrorists operate inside hospitals precisely because they know the IDF distinguishes between terrorists and civilians.
Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told JNS he believes it is “incumbent upon Israel and the international community to reveal what is known about the common center beneath Shifa Hospital.”
“According to the Geneva Convention, if the enemy is hiding inside a civilian population or inside a facility, that facility is a legitimate target,” he said.
That Shifa is the command and control center for the Hamas military apparatus and perhaps more is “well known,” according to Schanzer.
“As the war in Gaza progresses, the hospital will become part of the central narrative,” he said. “It may not be the final battle, but it could be a battle that turns the tide of this war by revealing the extent to which Hamas engages in the war crime of using human shields.”
Hamas “cynically uses 2.2 million Gazans as a tool for its own self-defense,” said Schanzer, adding, “That needs to be revealed.”
The question many people have been asking, however, is what exactly does Israel do about Shifa?
“The most blunt answer, of course, will be that Shifa Hospital should be destroyed,” said Schanzer. “But it’s not that easy. There’s the court of international opinion, there’s the question of how much support Israel is getting. There are complexities that need to be addressed.”
If and when Gaza City becomes the focal point of many of these battles, Israel will have the opportunity “to surround the hospital and demand the surrender of those within who are associated with Hamas,” he said.
Isolating the compound “includes bombarding the buildings surrounding it. It should be the only thing left standing in the immediate area, enabling Israel to operate freely and then force a surrender or to go in and take out the videos, photos, weapons and other materials that will show beyond a shadow of a doubt what we all know has been happening in Shifa for years,” he said.
He also suggested that Israel should “openly call upon Western intelligence agencies, and perhaps even Arab ones, to share what is known about the hospital compound and the military activity that takes place [there], with doctors and patients fighting for lives above.”
‘Israel should learn their lessons’
According to Col. Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, while Israel is under significant pressure from the international community to “abide by the laws of war,” it is actually the most moral army in the world.
In his view, Israel “does more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”
Eugene Kontorovich, director of international law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, agrees with Kemp, telling JNS that Israel “has done a good job of educating people on the laws of war.”
He said Israel should indeed heed the calls by commentators and U.S. officials to learn the lessons of the American experience in Mosul (2016) and Fallujah (2004-6).
“Yes, Israel should learn their lessons,” said Kontorovich. “Fallujah was 10 percent inhabited afterward. A quarter of the mosques were destroyed. Mosul was considered uninhabitable.”
“Nobody [at the time] said it was a violation of international law,” he added.
“Israel should take shelter behind the robust practice of the United States, which acts in full accordance with international law but understands that civilian casualties and significant destruction in urban combat is inevitable,” he said.
The Biden administration has demonstrated strong support for Israel in several important ways, including a visit by U.S. President Joe Biden and the deployment of the aircraft carriers USS Gerald R. Ford and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and their supporting fleets to the Eastern Mediterranean.
But this support has also been coupled with heavy pressure to allow supplies into Gaza that could jeopardize Israel’s efforts to completely cut Hamas off.
“The Biden administration seems principally interested in holding Israel back,” said Kontorovich. “It does not want the conflict to expand. If they had to choose between keeping Hamas in power and expanding the conflict, they would choose to keep Hamas in power.”
Naturally, this reasoning does not sit well with most Israelis.
Even Hillary Clinton, who pushed for a ceasefire in 2012 when she served as U.S. Secretary of State in the Obama administration, recently explained that “people who are calling for a ceasefire now don’t understand Hamas. That is not possible.”
Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security director, also underlined the fact that the Shifa Hospital is a legitimate military target and must be exposed for what it is.
In a recent interview with an Israeli media channel, he called on the world leaders who recently visited Israel, including the French president, the British prime minister and the German prime minister, to propose a humanitarian ceasefire, during which the Red Cross would visit the hostages. At the same time, these world leaders would announce an international effort to evacuate Shifa hospital so that Israel could enter and expose the terror activities Hamas conducts there.
Schanzer was in agreement.
“This is the important message that needs to come across,” he told JNS, and this could be “an opportunity for Israel to expose what Hamas does.”
“This should be the goal—not the hospital’s destruction, but the exposure of what’s under it,” he said.
He added that if Hamas terrorists escape through the tunnels, “Israel should go in and reveal it.”