Middle East

IDF special forces raid Gaza’s main hospital, find weapons and Hamas assets inside

The Times of Israel was told there had been no "friction" between troops and patients and medical staff. Incubators for newborns, baby food, and medical supplies were brought by IDF tanks from Israel and delivered to Shifa, the military said.

Tel Aviv: Israeli special forces backed by additional troops entered Gaza city’s Al-Shifa hospital overnight Tuesday to carry out a “precise and targeted operation” against Hamas terror infrastructure at the site.

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The operation continued into Wednesday morning, with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) finding weapons and Hamas assets inside. At least five Hamas gunmen were killed by troops during a gun battle outside the hospital. No soldiers were hurt, The Times of Israel reported.

The Times of Israel was told there had been no “friction” between troops and patients and medical staff. Incubators for newborns, baby food, and medical supplies were brought by IDF tanks from Israel and delivered to Shifa, the military said.

Israeli special forces backed by additional troops entered Gaza city’s Al-Shifa hospital overnight Tuesday to carry out a “precise and targeted operation” against Hamas terror infrastructure at the site.

The operation continued into Wednesday morning, with the IDF finding weapons and Hamas assets inside. At least five Hamas gunmen were killed by troops during a gun battle outside the hospital. No soldiers were hurt.

The Times of Israel was told there had been no “friction” between troops and patients and medical staff. Incubators for newborns, baby food, and medical supplies were brought by IDF tanks from Israel and delivered to Shifa, the military said.

“Medical teams and Arabic-speaking soldiers are on the ground to ensure that these supplies reach those in need” and that civilians are kept out of harm’s way, it added.

“We call upon all Hamas terrorists present in the hospital to surrender,” the military said.

News agency AFP cited a source inside the hospital as reporting that forces raced through the corridors and fired warning shots as they moved from room to room looking for gunmen. The army did not confirm the report, The Times of Israel reported.

The IDF has said the hospital serves as cover for the terror group’s fortified underground command centre — though it is unclear what or who remains there since the military launched its ground offensive in northern Gaza. Hamas leadership is thought to have largely moved to the Strip’s south.

Witnesses have described conditions inside the hospital as dire, with medical procedures performed without anesthetic, families with scant food or water living in corridors, and the stench of decomposing corpses filling the air.

The army stressed that the military was “not overrunning” the hospital, asserting troops were conducting a “focused” operation “in a defined area” of the hospital.

Though Israel believes some of the 240 hostages captured by Gaza terrorists were housed at the hospital at one time, there is no indication of hostages currently being held there. However, the IDF believes the operation may bring intelligence information on the captives.

“Our goal is to bring (hostages) home. Our goal is to seek out Hamas wherever they are hiding,” Lt. Col. (res.) Peter Lerner told CNN.

Youssef Abul Reesh, an official from the Hamas-run Health Ministry inside the hospital, said he saw Israeli tanks inside the complex and “dozens of soldiers and commandos inside the emergency and reception buildings”.

An unnamed security official told Army Radio that the Israeli operation at the hospital will be widened if necessary, and implied that the military knows what it is going to find there.

“We are starting small, and the operation will expand as necessary,” the official said. 

“The entry of troops into Shifa is more of a media (optics) challenge than an operational one.”

The IDF has been urging the hospital to evacuate since the start of the war, but authorities refused. Israel has also tried to coordinate the evacuation of the more seriously wounded patients and premature babies.

In recent days, as Israeli forces closed in on the compound amid gunfights with gunmen, thousands of the displaced people who had taken shelter in the hospital grounds took advantage of daily safe routes to evacuate to southern Gaza. Many patients who were able to also left, as did some medical staff.

The United Nations has estimated that at least 2,300 people — patients, staff and displaced civilians — remain inside and may be unable to escape because of the fierce fighting in the area.

The IDF also announced early Wednesday that two officers had been killed in fighting on Tuesday in northern Gaza, bringing the death toll in the ground offensive against Hamas to 48.

They were named as Captain Omri Yosef David, 27, from Carmiel, a deputy company commander in the Negev Brigade’s 9217 Battalion, and Captain Yedidya Asher Lev, 26, from Tal Menashe, a deputy company commander in the Givati Brigade’s Shaked Battalion.

Additionally, the IDF said four soldiers and officers were seriously wounded during fighting in Gaza on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the army said troops raided a Hamas training base in northern Gaza on Tuesday, locating a tunnel shaft and dozens of weapons.

Separately, the IDF said it carried out an overnight drone strike against two Hamas operatives who exited a building that housed an anti-tank missile launch position and placed “bags suspected of being explosive devices” on a road used by Israeli troops.

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