newsU.S.-Israel Relations

US: Hamas violates international law by using hospitals as terror bases

"It is a violation of the law of war to headquarter yourself in a hospital," said U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.

U.S President Joe Biden in Tel Aviv, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
U.S President Joe Biden in Tel Aviv, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.

Hamas is violating international humanitarian law by turning hospitals in the Gaza Strip into terror command centers, U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby reiterated on Wednesday.

“Let’s not forget what Hamas is doing. … It is a violation of the law of war to headquarter yourself in a hospital,” Kirby said during a press briefing the day after accusing the terror group of using Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, as well as other medical centers, to run its terror operations.

Despite Hamas’s “deliberate decision” to put innocent lives at risk, Shifa is an “active, legitimate hospital,” the spokesman added, as he urged the Israel Defense Forces to take “special care.”

On Tuesday, Kirby declassified intelligence confirming 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.”

Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh subsequently told reporters that Hamas and PIJ “operate a command and control node from Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. They have weapons stored there and are prepared to respond to an Israeli military operation against the facility.”

In the hours after Kirby’s press briefing, Israeli forces entered Shifa to conduct what the 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 Israeli military announced on Wednesday.

The Israel Defense Forces deliver medical supplies to Shifa Hospital in the Gaza Strip, Nov. 15, 2023. Source: IDF.

The IDF 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.

The patients at these hospitals are used as human shields and to hide Hamas’s covert activities.

Hamas said in a statement on Wednesday that it held Israel and U.S. President Joe Biden “fully responsible for [the] occupation army’s raid of Al Shifa Medical Complex.”

“The White House and the Pentagon’s adoption of the false narrative, claiming that the resistance [terror groups] is using Al Shifa Medical Complex for military purposes, was a green light for the occupation to commit more massacres against civilians,” Hamas charged.

Asked on Wednesday whether the Biden administration gave Israel its blessing to carry out the rain, Kirby told journalists that the United States “does not expect Israel to provide advance notice of its military operations in Gaza.”

“We don’t want to see innocent civilians, patients, medical staff become victims of crossfire,” he said. “We believe hospitals should be protected.”

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