Friday, December 22, 2023

On Thursday, the Washington Post published an investigation  casting doubt on whether Shifa Hospital in Gaza was being used as a Hamas command center.

Its top major finding: "The rooms connected to the tunnel network discovered by IDF troops showed no immediate evidence of military use by Hamas."

The key to the story is the word "immediate:"
“The law is about what was in the mind of the attacker at the time the attacker planned and executed the mission with respect to both what they expected the collateral damage they expected to cause and the military advantage they anticipated gaining,” said Michael Schmitt, an emeritus professor at the U.S. Naval War College.

The IDF would not comment on the military advantage sought or achieved.

What was the urgency? This is not yet being demonstrated,” said Yousuf Syed Khan, a senior lawyer with Global Rights Compliance, a law firm, who has drafted U.N. reports on siege warfare.

While the underground tunnel uncovered by Israeli forces after the raid does point to a possible militant presence underneath the hospital at some point, it does not prove that a command node was operating there during the war.

“We’re getting more of a granular, three-dimensional understanding of al-Shifa Hospital, the tunnels underneath it,” said Brian Finucane, a former legal adviser at the State Department and now a senior adviser at Crisis Group.

“What we’re really lacking here is a confident understanding of the fourth dimension, which is time. When were various elements of the hospital being used in certain ways? When were the tunnels beneath the hospital complex being used in certain ways?”
The Washington Post has its doubts:
The bare, white-tiled rooms showed no immediate evidence of use — for command and control or otherwise. There are no signs of recent habitation, including litter, food containers, clothing or other personal items.  
Let's look at the context.

Hamas' use of the hospital for military purposes was well known as early as 2006. Even the Washington Post itself wrote in 2014 that it  “has become a de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders, who can be seen in the hallways and offices.” 

Israel had built bunkers under the hospital when Gaza was under Israeli control, but bunkers aren't tunnels. However, we know that there were tunnels under Gaza's Al Wehda Street that were bombed in the 2014 war, and that street leads directly to the hospital compound. Given that Hamas built hundreds of tunnel shafts underneath their offices and leaders' homes, it is apparent that there were connections between Hamas offices in the hospital basement and the tunnels under Al Wehda Street.

Israel might not have revealed the specific locations of each shaft, and that is hardly important considering that there is no doubt that these tunnels existed directly underneath a hospital.

Just as there is no doubt that the only purpose of these tunnels, underground rooms and bathrooms is military. They aren't hotels or summer camps.

The IDF first laid out a specific series of accusations about the Shifa Hospital on October 27, nearly three weeks before the raid, before the ground war even began. There were unofficial discussions of Shifa Hospital before that. It didn't show "urgency" - it showed unheard-of patience before moving in.

Hamas knew the IDF was coming for them. And they had weeks to clear out and clean up the evidence from the tunnels (even though they left behind plenty of weapons on the hospital grounds themselves, which were harder to clean up since there were so many people around.)

Here's the part that no one is talking about: The IDF knew quite well that they were giving Hamas a heads up that they were coming. They knew Hamas would not stay and it would hide evidence of explicit military use. So why give the warning at all? Why not surprise Hamas? What army tells the enemy where they will be going?

The warning was meant to force Hamas commanders to move to other areas. 

This achieves three military aims. Firstly, it  disrupts their operations temporarily. Secondly,  it allows the IDF to go there, gather evidence and valuable intelligence like footage from cameras, and destroy the military infrastructure beneath Shifa without a firefight and endangering patients and civilians taking shelter. And thirdly, Hamas leaders moving to other areas allows Israel to attack them without worrying about the complexity of protecting hospital patients during a battle.

Israel has now released evidence that Hamas brought hostages to Shifa. The tunnels had electricity and plumbing that were attached to Shifa's infrastructure. Weapons were found in the radiology ward and in a garage on Shifa's grounds. We know that employees and even directors at other hospitals were also Hamas terrorists. The Gaza health ministry is Hamas and it admits its officials have Hamas military rank. While there might not be direct evidence of Hamas using those tunnels underneath Shifa in mid-November as their main headquarters, no one can seriously doubt that Hamas used the hospital for military purposes and that the reason was to use the patients as human shields. 

Israel managed to clear Hamas out of the hospital it was using for military purposes with a minimum of fighting and a minimum of physical destruction. That is not violating international law - it is adhering to it in ways far beyond the limited imaginations of those whose entire worldview is poisoned by always assuming malevolence from Israel.

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 19 years and 40,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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