Weeks before Israel sent troops into al-Shifa Hospital, its spokesman began building a public case.
The claims were remarkably specific — that five hospital buildings were directly involved in Hamas activities; that the buildings sat atop underground tunnels that were used by militants to direct rocket attacks and command fighters; and that the tunnels could be accessed from inside hospital wards. The assertions were backed by “concrete evidence,” Israel Defense Forces spokesman Daniel Hagari said as he laid out the case in an Oct. 27 briefing.
After storming the complex on Nov. 15, the IDF released a series of photographs and videos that it said proved its central point.
“Terrorists came here to command their operations,” Hagari said in a video published Nov. 22, guiding viewers through an underground tunnel, illuminating dark and empty rooms beneath al-Shifa.
But the evidence presented by the Israeli government falls short of showing that Hamas had been using the hospital as a command and control center, according to a Washington Post analysis of open-source visuals, satellite imagery and all of the publicly released IDF materials. That raises critical questions, legal and humanitarian experts say, about whether the civilian harm caused by Israel’s military operations against the hospital — encircling, besieging and ultimately raiding the facility and the tunnel beneath it — were proportionate to the assessed threat.
The Post’s analysis shows:
- The rooms connected to the tunnel network discovered by IDF troops showed no immediate evidence of military use by Hamas.
- None of the five hospital buildings identified by Hagari appeared to be connected to the tunnel network.
- There is no evidence that the tunnels could be accessed from inside hospital wards.
Hours before IDF troops entered the complex, the Biden administration declassified U.S. intelligence assessments that it said bolstered Israel’s claims. In the aftermath of the raid, Israeli and U.S. officials have stood firm behind their initial statements.
“We are absolutely confident in the intelligence … that Hamas was using it as a command and control node,” a senior administration official told The Post last week, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive findings. “Hamas had been holding the hostages in the hospital compound until shortly before Israel went in.”
The U.S. government has not made any of the declassified material public and the official would not share the intelligence this assessment was based on. [Continue reading…]