(THE TIMES OF ISRAEL) The Biden administration on Tuesday confirmed long-held Israeli assertions that Hamas is using medical facilities for military purposes, as the IDF closes in on Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, believed to host the terror group’s main command post.
“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,” White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters during a briefing.
“Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad members operate a command and control [centre] from al-Shifa in Gaza City. They have stored weapons there and they’re prepared to respond to an Israeli military operation against that facility,” Kirby said, citing US intelligence assessments.
He clarified that the US does not support Israel striking the medical centre from the air, as IDF troops continue to advance. The scenario highlighted the challenging military operation that Israel is trying to pull off, as Hamas embeds itself within civilian populations, Kirby said.
He asserted that Hamas’s actions do not lessen Israel’s responsibility to protect civilians.
In response, Hamas lashed out at the White House, saying Kirby’s remarks gave a “green light” to Israel to commit “brutal massacres” targeting hospitals in Gaza.
Fighting in recent days has centred around Shifa, which Jerusalem says is hiding Hamas’s main operations centre in an underground bunker.
The focus on hospitals, which have complained of dwindling supplies and patient deaths due to the fighting, has ratcheted up pressure on Israel to do more to protect Gazan civilians caught in the crossfire.
The IDF on Tuesday announced it had captured a number of Hamas governmental sites in Gaza City as its troops engaged in fierce battles with Hamas gunmen, while continuing to enable humanitarian corridors to allow for civilians to evacuate to the southern part of the Strip.
In Israel, rocket barrages from Gaza injured several people, including one person hospitalised in serious condition after shrapnel rained on part of Tel Aviv after an interception.
The death toll of IDF soldiers killed in the ground operation rose to 46, with the military clearing for publication the names of two soldiers killed on Monday.
Among the locations captured by the troops were the Hamas parliament, the government complex and the police headquarters.
Troops also captured the so-called governor’s house in Gaza, which housed Hamas offices for its military wing and police, offices of Hamas’s intelligence division, and other sites that were used to prepare for the October 7 onslaught, the army said.
Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said on Monday that Hamas had lost control in Gaza, as the IDF moved to fully capture Gaza City.
“There is no force of Hamas capable of stopping the IDF. The IDF is advancing at every location. The Hamas organisation has lost control in Gaza: Terrorists are fleeing south, civilians are looting Hamas bases. They have no confidence in the government,” Gallant said, after holding an assessment on the fighting.
On Monday evening the army said forces raided Gaza City’s Rantisi Hospital, which treats children, and that Hamas operatives had been holed up there. It said it had evidence indicating hostages were held there.
“Underneath the hospital, in the basement, we found a Hamas command and control centre, suicide-bomb vests, grenades, AK-47 assault rifles, explosive devices, RPGs, and other weapons, computers, money, etc,” Spokesman Daniel Hagari said.
Israel will likely see international pressure to halt or curb its Gaza operation rise significantly within the next few weeks, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said Monday.
In a briefing to reporters, Cohen said diplomatic pressure had begun to increase, and although not currently very high, said it was now on an upward trend.
Asked what the “diplomatic window” for the IDF’s campaign in Gaza is, Cohen answered: “Two or three weeks.”
Cohen added, though, that Israel is determined to continue with combat operations until it reaches its goals for the war, to eliminate Hamas and return the hundreds of hostages it holds.
The Foreign Minister also said that the fact that Hamas is still holding some 240 hostages is lending international legitimacy to the war against the terror group.