Israel shows small cache of weapons in Gaza’s Al Shifa hospital as search for Hamas command center continues


A BBC News team was brought by Israeli troops on Wednesday night into Gaza’s Al Shifa hospital, where the forces showed the CBS News partner network 15 guns, some grenades, military booklets and a map with entrances and exits to the hospitals. The Israel Defense Forces said the weapons and other items were evidence of Hamas militants using Gaza’s largest health facility for military purposes, in violation of international law.

“We uncovered a lot of computers and other equipment which could really shed light on the current situation, hopefully regarding hostages as well,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told the BBC. He said the computers contained images of hostages from Israel taken in Gaza after they were kidnapped.

The BBC team was not shown those images, nor were they permitted to speak with any patients or doctors at the hospital.

“At the end of the day, this is just the tip of the iceberg,” Conricus said, adding that he believed militants had been in the facility “within the last few days,” prior to the IDF launching a ground operation at Al Shifa.

“Hamas aren’t here because they saw we were coming. This is probably what they were forced to leave behind. Our assessment is that there’s much more,” Conricus told the BBC.

Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City
An Israeli officer points at what he describes as a grab bag containing a rifle and other munitions belonging to a Hamas fighter that was discovered behind an MRI machine at the Al Shifa hospital complex in Gaza City, Nov. 15, 2023.

Israel Defense Forces photo via Reuters

The Israeli military also released photos of soldiers standing inside Al Shifa beside boxes marked, in large English writing, “baby food” and “medical supplies.” The IDF said incubators with their own power sources were being sent in to help infants who had to be removed from hospital incubators due to a lack of fuel to power generators. It said the battery-powered incubators could be used to help move the babies to a safer location.

The BBC said it was unable to confirm that the transfer of infants out of the hospital had occurred.

Israeli forces were still searching Thursday for tunnels beneath Al Shifa, which they have repeatedly said serve as a Hamas headquarters. The U.S. has backed that assertion, with National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby saying this week that Hamas was believed to be operating a “command and control node” from the hospital. 

Witnesses who spoke to the Reuters news agency from inside the hospital compound said soldiers went from building to building after they moved in early on Wednesday, and while some shooting was heard, there were no reports of anyone being injured within the hospital grounds.

Meanwhile, Gaza residents — more than 1.5 million of whom the United Nations estimates have been displaced from their homes in the northern half of the enclave — said the IDF had dropped leaflets Wednesday in southern areas of the territory instructing people to evacuate, The Associated Press reported. 

Hundreds of thousands of Gazans have fled from the north to southern Gaza after they were told northern areas would no longer be safe from IDF operations. The new instructions could mean that Israel is planning to expand its military operations to areas that are now crowded with hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people.

The leaflets, which the AP said fell east of the southern town of Khan Younis, instructed civilians to evacuate and said anyone near militants or their positions was “putting his life in danger.”

The IDF did not immediately respond to CBS News’ request for comment on the leaflets or where civilians in the designated areas might be expected to go.

Palestinian officials in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, and multiple U.N. officials, have said repeatedly that nowhere in the densely-populated, 25-mile-long coastal region is safe amid Israel’s war with Hamas.

On Wednesday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel’s ground operation inside Gaza would eventually “include both the north and south,” vowing to “strike Hamas wherever it is.”

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