US intel confident militant groups used largest Gaza hospital in campaign against Israel: AP source

The U.S. is “confident” that Palestinian militant groups used Gaza’s largest hospital to hold “at least a few" hostages seized during their bloody Oct. 7 attack and to house command infrastructure

Zeke Miller
Wednesday 03 January 2024 04:40 GMT

The U.S. is “confident” that Palestinian militant groups used Gaza's largest hospital to hold “at least a few” hostages seized during their bloody Oct. 7 attack and to house command infrastructure, an American intelligence assessment declassified Tuesday and shared by a U.S. official found.

The assessment offers the firmest U.S. support for Israeli claims about the Shifa hospital complex, which was raided by Israeli forces in November in an operation decried by global humanitarian organizations and some members of President Joe Biden' s party. Yet the information released doesn't fully back some of Israel's most significant allegations that the hospital served as the central node for activities by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The U.S. official shared the assessment on the condition of anonymity.

“The U.S. Intelligence Community is confident in its judgment on this topic and has independently corroborated information on HAMAS and PIJ’s use of the hospital complex for a variety of purposes related to its campaign against Israel," the assessment states. It continues that it believes the groups “used the al-Shifa hospital complex and sites beneath it to house command infrastructure, exercise certain command and control activities, store some weapons, and hold at least a few hostages.”

The U.S. believes that Hamas members evacuated days before Israel raided the complex on Nov. 15 and that they destroyed sensitive documents and electronics before Israeli troops entered the facility.

U.S. officials had previously pointed to classified intelligence, obtained independently from the Israelis, to offer support for Israel's raid.

“I can confirm for you that we have information 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,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters a day before Israel entered the hospital.

Gaza’s hospitals have played a central role in the dueling narratives surrounding the war that the Hamas-run Health Ministry says has killed 22,100 people — though it does not differentiate between civilians and combatants. Hospitals enjoy special protected status under the international laws of war. But they can lose that status if they are used for military purposes.

Before the raid on the hospital, the Israeli military unveiled a detailed 3D model of Gaza’s Shifa Hospital showing a series of underground installations that it said was part of an elaborate Hamas command-and-control center under the territory’s largest health care facility. The Israeli military has yet to unveil any infrastructure nearly as sprawling and developed as the purported center.

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