US doubles down on assessment Hamas used Gaza hospital as command hub

This November 7, 2023, photo shows an aerial view of Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City.

This November 7, 2023, photo shows an aerial view of Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City.Bashar Taleb/AFP/Getty ImagesCNN — 

The US doubled down on its assessment that Hamas and other Gaza militants used the enclave’s largest hospital complex as a command hub as well as to hold hostages and store weapons, with a senior intelligence official pointing to newly declassified intelligence that reinforces the conclusion of Israeli and US intelligence.

“The US Intelligence Community is confident in its judgment on this topic and has independently corroborated information on Hamas and [Palestinian Islamic Jiahd]’s use of the hospital complex for a variety of purposes related to its campaign against Israel,” the official said Tuesday.

But the US intelligence community did not release any new evidence to support its assessment after questions were raised about to what extent the Al-Shifa Hospital was indeed the “beating heart” of Hamas operations, as Israel had claimed.

In late December, the Washington Post published an extensive investigation that cast doubt on some of Israel’s claims.

Israel had come under widespread criticism for its November siege and assault on the struggling hospital, where doctors had described the situation as “catastrophic.”

The new intelligence echoed previous allegations by the Biden administration and Israel in the days and weeks leading up to Israel’s November raid on Al-Shifa Hospital that intelligence indicated Hamas had a command and control node in the tunnels under the hospital complex.

A spokesman for the National Security Council, John Kirby, had also said the hospital was being used to store weapons and hold hostages.

US intelligence continues to believe that, according to the senior official, who added the site held “at least a few hostages.”

“We have information—obtained after the November 15 [Israel Defense Forces] operation—that Hamas members located at the hospital had largely evacuated days earlier as the IDF approached the Al-Shifa complex and that Hamas destroyed documents and electronics at the complex in advance of the IDF’s operation,” the official said.

After Israel took control of the area, the military posted a series of videos of spokesmen showing weapons that were allegedly found inside the hospital itself as well as a tunnel system under the hospital.

In November, Hamas acknowledged using the hospital to bring in hostages as they “meticulously monitored” their health before detaining them in different locations, after Israel released video from the hospital’s security cameras showing hostages being brought inside. But Hamas denied using the hospital as a command hub.

CNN traveled with the IDF to the Shifa hospital complex to see the exposed tunnel shaft in November. The IDF then released video showing a tunnel extending from the shaft and continuing under the hospital complex.

In a video released by the IDF on November 22, IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari went into the tunnels and showed a tiled room as well as a bathroom that Hagari said were beneath the hospital, connected to its power system.

But it fell far short of proving that Hamas used the hospital as a primary command and control node for its operations, an assertion both Israel and the US had repeatedly made before the IDF reached the hospital. Israel went as far as to publish a 3D graphic illustration of a Hamas command hub extending underground directly from the hospital buildings. Neither Israel nor the US have published evidence that fully matches up with the claims.

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