In the weeks before the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) raided the Al-Shifa hospital, the largest hospital in Gaza, the IDF “went to great lengths to depict the medical complex as a headquarters for Hamas, from where its attacks on Israel were planned,” according to The Guardian.
The U.S. has claimed that it produced its own intelligence that verifies this claim. National security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Thursday that “We have information that confirms that Hamas is using that particular hospital for a command and control mode” and likely for storing weapons.
According to Reuters, “[Kirby] said the United States had information that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad were using some hospitals in the Gaza Strip, including Al Shifa, to conceal or support their military operations and to hold hostages.”
Despite Kirby’s claim that the information came from various intelligence methods, the U.S. has provided no evidence to verify that the hospital is being used by Hamas.
In the name of rooting out an apparently non-existent Hamas network out of the hospital, the IDF created what Amnesty International has called “a graveyard of children.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) said the U.N. assessment team that analyzed the hospital similarly concluded that the complex has become a “death zone.” The team found “a mass grave at the entrance of the hospital and was told more than 80 people were buried there.” Further, the WHO reported:
Lack of clean water, fuel, medicines, food and other essential aid over the last 6 weeks have caused Al-Shifa Hospital—once the largest, most advanced and best equipped referral hospital in Gaza—to essentially stop functioning as a medical facility…Al-Shifa Hospital can no longer admit patients, with the injured and sick now being directed to the seriously overwhelmed and barely functioning Indonesian Hospital.
The vast majority of patients are victims of war trauma, including many with complex fractures and amputations, head injuries, burns, chest and abdominal trauma, and 29 patients with serious spinal injuries who are unable to move without medical assistance. Many trauma patients have severely infected wounds due to lack of infection control measures in the hospital and unavailability of antibiotics.
The IDF recently released a video in which Lt. Colonel Jonathan Conricus “exposes the countless weapons IDF troops have uncovered in the Shifa Hospital’s MRI building.” The video shows Conricus walking a cameraman through the MRI room while pointing out what the IDF claims are Hamas weapons and equipment.
According to The Guardian, “The IDF accused Hamas…of hiding evidence that would confirm that the organization had used the hospital as a command and control center.” An IDF spokesperson said “Hamas has persistently worked to conceal infrastructure and cover up evidence.” Despite Hamas’ alleged attempts to cover up evidence, the guns and equipment spread across the MRI room in the IDF video are extremely visible and don’t appear hidden whatsoever.
Conricus also cites the destruction of security cameras as evidence that Hamas is using the hospital to carry out military operations. While it would be in Hamas’s interest to prevent any recording of them using the hospital as a headquarters, it would also be in the IDF’s interest to destroy any footage of them planting the “evidence” offered in the video.
According to Julian Borger in The Guardian:
A BBC analysis found the footage of an IDF spokesperson showing the apparent discovery of a bag containing a gun behind an MRI scanning machine, had been taped hours before the arrival of the journalists to whom he was supposedly showing it.
In a video shown later, the number of guns in the bag had doubled. The IDF claimed its video of what it found at the hospital was unedited, filmed in a single take, but the BBC analysis found it had been edited.
The videos are shown below.
Fox News stenographer doesn't realize he accidentally exposed Israel's clumsy evidence tampering
The Hamas "go bag" he showed behind Shifa's MRI machine was different than the one "IDF" spokesman Jonathan Conricus initially presented
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) November 18, 2023
Inside Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital we saw weapons in the radiology department. Israeli forces told us they believe Hamas fighters are inside other buildings within the complex. pic.twitter.com/NtHqJHBt5X
— Trey Yingst (@TreyYingst) November 16, 2023
Further, users on X, formerly known as Twitter, scrutinized the IDF’s claim that the video was unedited by asking why the original video the IDF posted was deleted and then reposted, with the reposted version being shorter than the original.
Watch as LTC (res.) Jonathan Conricus exposes the countless Hamas weapons IDF troops have uncovered in the Shifa Hospital's MRI building: pic.twitter.com/5qssP8z1XQ
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) November 15, 2023
The section in the original video in which Conricus boasts about finding pictures of a hostage captured by Hamas on a laptop is cut in the IDF’s current version of the video.
😂🇮🇱 Why’d you delete the first video? pic.twitter.com/7s8pGuBOgk
— Jackson Hinkle 🇺🇸 (@jacksonhinklle) November 15, 2023
Even if the video is not staged, the Geneva conventions, which Israel endorsed in 1951, strictly forbid military action against hospitals unless “they are used to commit, outside their humanitarian duties, acts harmful to the enemy.” According to Borger,
This exception, spelled out in Article 19 of the fourth Geneva convention, states specifically: ‘… the presence of small arms and ammunition taken from such combatants and not yet handed to the proper service, shall not be considered to be acts harmful to the enemy.’(emphasis added)
The IDF also discovered an entrance to what they allege to be a Hamas tunnel shaft at Al-Shifa hospital. According to the New York Times, Israeli officials “asserted” that the tunnel “was evidence…of a Hamas military facility under the hospital.” A commander admitted to the Times that “the forces, fearing booby traps, had not ventured down the shaft,” however.
In Borger’s article for The Guardian, he raises the possibility of whether or not Israel was involved in the construction of this underground area. Borger states,
There are questions over how much of its graphic presentation of the network under al-Shifa was based on what Israel knew already; its own architect had built an extensive basement area there the last time Israel directly occupied Gaza, up to 2005.
Dr. Norman Finkelstein, an author and academic who has written extensively about Israel/Palestine, pointed out the odd nature of a military as advanced as the IDF fearing “booby traps.” Finkelstein speculated that he believes Israel will eventually deactivate the booby traps “after it finishes constructing the tunnel.”
Whenever it used to fear a booby-trap, the brave IDF conscripted Palestinians—including children—to march ahead of them as human shields.
— Norman Finkelstein (@normfinkelstein) November 19, 2023