Israel Begins Operations in Al-Shifa Hospital

Intelligence has long suggested it is used by Hamas as a base.

Written by Jack Elbaum

What’s happening: Earlier this week, Israel began what it describes as a “precise and targeted operation” in part of Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital. The operation will likely expand in the coming days and weeks.

How it happened: About 100 soldiers entered the compound and went room to room speaking with doctors and patients. It gained control of the hospital without a single shot fired and asked all men ages 16-40 to leave, except for those in the surgical and emergency units.

  • What they found: So far, Israeli troops have found guns, grenades, and ammunition belonging to Hamas in the hospital. However, it has not yet uncovered what Israel has described as the "beating heart” of Hamas’s operations under the hospital.

Why it happened: Both Israel and the United States have intelligence suggesting Hamas uses tunnels below Al-Shifa Hospital as its de facto headquarters, which is a war crime. In 2014, the Washington Post reported this as well. It was therefore almost inevitable fighting would eventually reach Al-Shifa considering Israel’s stated goal is to defeat Hamas.

  • Important: Article 19 of the Geneva Convention reads, “The protection to which civilian hospitals are entitled shall not cease unless they are used to commit, outside their humanitarian duties, acts harmful to the enemy.”

Humanitarian toll: Al-Shifa is Gaza’s biggest hospital and, in recent days, the humanitarian situation there had become dire. Six premature babies have reportedly died after their incubators stopped working. Other injured patients are struggling to get care.

  • Israel’s response: The IDF provided 300 liters of fuel for the hospital, but Hamas did not allow the hospital to accept it. Israel has also been providing incubators, baby food, and other medical supplies in recent days.