The White House has put forth evidence suggesting that Hamas is utilizing Gaza’s largest hospital, Al Shifa, to carry out its military operations, potentially including the storage of weapons. These actions, according to the White House, constitute a war crime. National security spokesperson John Kirby made these claims while speaking to reporters on Air Force One, sharing that there was confirmed information supporting the assertion that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad were utilizing hospitals in the Gaza Strip, including Al Shifa, to conceal or support their military activities. In addition, these groups were allegedly prepared to respond to Israeli military operations against these facilities.
The Biden administration has obtained this information using various intelligence methods and decided to downgrade the classification level of some of the data to share their findings with the press. Kirby emphasized that Hamas’ actions in the hospitals do not absolve Israel of its responsibility to protect civilians, but acknowledged that it does complicate Israel’s efforts to eradicate Hamas. He clarified that the United States does not endorse targeting hospitals or engaging in combat within these medical facilities, as innocent and vulnerable individuals seeking medical care should not be subjected to such violence. The White House plans to continue engaging in dialogue with its counterparts regarding Israel’s obligation to safeguard civilian lives in Gaza while addressing the issue of Hamas’ activities in hospitals.
Israel has surrounded Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City, claiming that it houses an underground headquarters for Hamas militants. However, Hamas denies the presence of fighters in the hospital and alleges that around 650 patients, along with 5,000-7,000 other civilians, are trapped within the hospital grounds, facing continuous sniper fire and drone attacks. According to Hamas, recent days have seen the deaths of 40 patients, including three premature babies whose lives were lost when their incubators were destroyed. A Hamas official in Beirut has stated that out of Gaza’s 35 hospitals, 25 are unable to operate due to Israel’s assault. The situation at Al Shifa has garnered international concern, including from the United States, Israel’s closest ally. Israel denies placing the hospital under siege and asserts that its forces provide safe exit routes for those inside. However, hospital staff and officials contradict this claim, stating that individuals attempting to flee the hospital are met with gunfire. Reuters has been unable to independently verify the situation.