Weapons, Hamas command centre found at al-Shifa Hospital, Israel claims

Key Points
  • US President Joe Biden says occupation of Gaza “a big mistake”.
  • Israeli forces claim they have uncovered weapons at Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital.
  • Hamas denied the accusation and on Wednesday dismissed the Israeli statements as “lies and cheap propaganda”.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog said a “very strong force” may need to remain to prevent Hamas from re-emerging after the war, but US President Joe Biden warned that occupying Gaza would be “a big mistake”.

“If we pull back, then who will take over? We can’t leave a vacuum. We have to think about what will be the mechanism; there are many ideas that are thrown in the air,” Herzog said in an interview with the FT published on Thursday.

“But no one will want to turn this place, Gaza, into a terror base again”, he added.

Herzog told FT that Israel’s government was discussing many ideas about how Gaza would be run once the war ends and added that he assumed that the United States and “our neighbours in the region” would have some involvement in the post-conflict order.

Two men in suits and ties sit with folded hands.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with President Isaac Herzog. Source: AAP / Abir Sultan/EPA

Biden said on Wednesday that he had made it clear to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a two-state solution was the only way to resolve the Hamas-Israel war and that occupying Gaza would be “a big mistake”.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas but has not put forward a plan to determine who would govern Gaza after the war. Netanyahu has said that Israel would have to maintain overall security responsibility in Gaza for an indefinite period.

Al-Shifa raid: Israel claims it found weapons, Hamas command centre at hospital

Israeli troops found an operational command centre and assets belonging to Hamas in Gaza’s biggest hospital, Israel’s military says, during a campaign that has stoked global alarm over the fate of civilians inside.
Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City into the territory by Israeli forces, who say the “beating heart” of the Hamas fighters’ operations is headquartered in tunnels beneath it.
Hamas denied the accusation from Israel that the “beating heart” of military operations was in tunnels beneath the hospital, and dismissed the Israeli statements as “lies and cheap propaganda”.

Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari on Wednesday said the troops, who entered the hospital earlier that day after encircling it for days, had found weapons, combat gear and technological equipment there and were continuing their search. These claims have not been independently verified.

The military also released a video they said showed some of the materials recovered from an undisclosed building in the hospital compound, including automatic weapons, grenades, ammunition, and flak jackets.

Israel has consistently maintained that the hospital sits above a Hamas headquarters, an assertion the United States, an ally of Israel, said on Tuesday was supported by its own intelligence.

Hailing the entry of his forces into the hospital, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement: “There is no place in Gaza that we cannot reach. There are no hideouts. There is no shelter or refuge for the Hamas murderers.
“We will reach and eliminate Hamas and we will bring back our hostages. These are two sacred missions,” he said.
Israel said its troops had entered the hospital compound on Wednesday after killing militants in a clash outside. Once inside, they said there had been no fighting and no friction with civilians, patients or staff.
Witnesses who spoke to the Reuters news agency from inside the compound described a seemingly calm but tense situation, as Israeli troops moved between buildings conducting searches. Sporadic shooting was heard but there were no reports of anyone hurt inside the grounds.

The Israeli military released photos of a soldier standing beside cardboard boxes marked “medical supplies” and “baby food”, at a location Reuters verified was inside al-Shifa. Other photos showed Israeli troops in tactical formation walking past makeshift tents and mattresses.

A medical worker wrapping a bandage around a man's head.

An injured Palestinian man receives treatment at the al-Shifa hospital on 5 November. Recently, international attention has focused on the fate of hundreds of patients trapped inside without electricity to operate basic medical equipment. Source: AAP, AP / Abed Khaled

International attention has focused on the fate of hundreds of patients trapped inside without electricity to operate basic medical equipment, and thousands of who had sought shelter there. Gaza officials say that many patients including three died in recent days as a result of Israel’s encirclement of the hospital.

“Before entering the hospital our forces were confronted by explosive devices and terrorist squads, fighting ensued in which terrorists were killed,” the Israeli military said.

“We can confirm that incubators, baby food and medical supplies brought by IDF [Israel Defence Forces] tanks from Israel have successfully reached the Shifa hospital. Our medical teams and Arabic speaking soldiers are on the ground to ensure that these supplies reach those in need,” it said.
Israel launched a campaign to wipe out Hamas after . Israel says 1,200 people were killed and some 240 captives taken in the deadliest day of its 75-year history.

Since then, Israel has put Gaza’s entire population of 2.3 million under siege, battering the crowded strip with air strikes.

A tank being driven through the streets of a city.

An Israeli tank in Gaza City pictured in a video release by the Israeli Defence Forces on Tuesday. Source: AAP, AP / Israel Defence Forces

Gaza health officials, considered reliable by the United Nations, say about 11,500 Palestinians are now confirmed killed, around 40 per cent of them children, and more are buried under the rubble.

Israel has ordered the entire northern half of Gaza evacuated, and around two-thirds of residents are now homeless.
Hamas is a Palestinian military and political group, which has gained power in the Gaza Strip since winning legislative elections there in 2006. Its stated aim is to establish a Palestinian state, while refusing to recognise Israel’s right to exist.

Hamas, in its entirety, is designated as a terrorist organisation by countries including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. New Zealand and Paraguay list only its military wing as a terrorist group. In 2018, the United Nations General Assembly voted against a resolution condemning Hamas in its entirety as a terrorist organisation.

Humanitarian pauses

Also on Wednesday, the UN Security Council called for urgent and extended humanitarian pauses in fighting between Israel and Palestinian Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip for a “sufficient number of days” to allow humanitarian aid access.
The 15-member council overcame an impasse, which saw four unsuccessful attempts to take action last month, to adopt a resolution that also calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas.

The US, Russia and Britain, who are council veto powers, abstained from Wednesday’s vote on the resolution drafted by Malta. The remaining 12 members voted in favour.

Russia failed in a last-minute bid to amend the resolution to include a call for an immediate humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities.
The council stalemate has largely been centered on whether to call for a humanitarian . A pause is generally considered less formal and shorter than a ceasefire, which has to be agreed by the warring parties. The United States has backed pauses, while Russia has pushed for a ceasefire.

Wednesday’s resolution also does not condemn the actions of Hamas — a point of contention for Israel’s ally, the US, and the UK.