Israel has accused Hamas of using hospitals in the Gaza Strip for launching attacks, leading to concerns about the safety of medical facilities in the region. The Israeli authorities claim that they have “concrete evidence” showing that Hamas fighters who participated in a terrorist attack in southern Israel on October 7 later sought refuge in Shifa Hospital, the largest medical complex in Gaza.
Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, an Israeli military spokesperson, held a news briefing and revealed intelligence materials allegedly proving that Hamas militants were commanding attacks against Israel from inside the hospital. While these claims have not been independently verified, they have raised questions about the use of medical facilities for military purposes.
Hagari stated, “We are putting a red flag against the international law” to highlight the alleged misuse of hospitals for military activities. He further alleged that Hamas conducts its “command and control for terror activities, launching rockets” from within these medical facilities.
Additionally, the Israeli military claimed that there is a network of underground tunnels beneath Shifa Hospital, with access points located within hospital wards. The spokesperson argued that terrorists move freely within Shifa Hospital and other hospitals in Gaza, emphasizing that this is a systematic practice by Hamas.
Under international law, hospitals are protected from attack, and their primary function is to provide medical care to the civilian population. However, if these facilities are used for military purposes, they could potentially lose their protection from attack.
Israel has shared its intelligence regarding the alleged use of hospitals by Hamas with the intelligence agencies of its allies.
In response to these allegations, Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sittah, a doctor working in Gaza, referred to the Israeli briefing as an “outlandish excuse” to target hospitals. He emphasized that targeting any hospital is a war crime under international humanitarian law.
Dr. Abu-Sittah raised practical concerns about evacuating critically injured patients and questioned the idea that issuing warnings could justify attacks on medical facilities. International humanitarian law was established to protect hospitals, and violating these protections constitutes a war crime.
The situation remains complex, with both sides presenting contrasting narratives. The international community continues to monitor the situation and address the challenges posed by the ongoing conflict in the region.