A US official with knowledge of American intelligence says Hamas has a command node under the Al-Shifa hospital, uses fuel intended for it and its fighters regularly cluster in and around Gaza’s largest hospital.
The information comes after comments made Sunday by a top White House official that Hamas is using hospitals and civilian facilities.
“You can see even from open-source reporting that Hamas does use hospitals, along with a lot of other civilian facilities, for command-and-control, for storing weapons, for housing its fighters,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on CNN’s State of the Union. “Without getting into this specific hospital or that specific claim, this is Hamas’ track record, both historically and in this conflict.”
Israel has insisted it is justified in taking military action around the hospital, despite criticism from the UN and other international organizations. The Israeli government announced it has created evacuation corridors and called for the removal of civilians, in addition to providing fuel.
Hamas and hospital officials have denied the accusation that the hospital is being used as a command center.
The news that US intelligence assessments appear to back Israel’s claims comes as global attention is focused on the fighting around the hospital and reports suggest several patients, including children, have died in what the hospital’s director has called “catastrophic” conditions.
“There is no more water, food, milk for children and babies… the situation in the hospital is catastrophic,” the director of the medical center, Dr. Muhammad Abu Salmiya, told CNN on Monday.
But Israel has insisted that patients can be evacuated from the hospital.
“There’s no reason why we just can’t take the patients out of there, instead of letting Hamas use it as a command center for terrorism, for the rockets that they fire against Israel, for the terror tunnels that they use to kill Israeli civilians,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash on State of the Union.
Netanyahu added that Israel is “treading carefully when it comes to hospitals. But we’re also not going to give immunity to the terrorists.”
CIA declined to comment. CNN has not seen the intelligence cited by the US official.
Dr. Munir Al-Bursh, the director-general of the Hamas-controlled health ministry, said Monday that medical staff at Al-Shifa had refused an IDF evacuation order because they fear approximately 700 patients will die if they are left behind.
“The problem is not the doctors, it’s the patients. And if they are left behind, they will die, and if they are transferred, they will die on the way, this is the problem, we are talking about 700 patients,” Al-Bursh told CNN on Monday.
“There has been no response until now by the doctors, but some of the displaced people and families have already been leaving.”
The World Health Organization says Al-Shifa has been without power for three days. “Regrettably, the hospital is not functioning as a hospital anymore,” it said.
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