Jerusalem, Nov 15 (EFE).- The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) stormed into Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital on Wednesday in search of Hamas fighters, sparking “war crime” accusations by the Islamist militant group that rules the besieged Palestinian enclave.
The Israeli military said it was “carrying out a precise and targeted operation against Hamas,” claiming that Palestinian militants were operating in the hospital, which the militant group and health officials deny.
The military said the operation “in the Shifa Hospital (is) based on intelligence information and an operational necessity.”
However, Hamas, which has been governing the strip since 2007, accused Israel of committing a “war crime” by breaking into the hospital, which is also housing thousands of people displaced by the nearly six weeks of the Israel-Gaza war.
“The occupation army’s assault on the Al Shifa medical complex is a war crime, a moral crime, and a crime against humanity,” said a government spokesperson.
Hamas said Israeli forces opened fire inside the hospital and bombed its five buildings “despite knowing that there are about 9,000 medical staff, wounded, sick, and displaced persons.”
Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said in a press statement that the Israeli forces committed “new crimes against humanity, medical staff, and patients.”
“We hold the occupation forces fully responsible for the lives of medical personnel, patients, and displaced persons in the Al Shifa medical complex,” said the minister, based in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank.
Al-Kaila’s ministry falls under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and is not linked to the Hamas-controlled Gaza government.
Israel justified its operation, recalling that it had repeatedly warned that Hamas was jeopardizing the protected status of the hospital with “unlawful abuse” for its military purposes.
An Israeli military spokesperson said they had given a 12-hour deadline to Palestinian militants to cease all military activities within the hospital.
The hospital raid coincided with the United States claiming that it had evidence that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant groups were using some Gaza health facilities for their military operations and to hide hostages and weapons.
“They have stored weapons there, and they are prepared to respond to an Israeli military operation against that facility,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters accompanying President Joe Biden aboard Air Force One.
He said that Hamas was using the Al-Shif hospital—the largest in Gaza—as “a command-and-control node and probably to store weapons. “That is a war crime.”
On Monday, Israeli forces engaged in combat near Gaza’s Al Quds hospital, which had stopped operating a day earlier but still houses patients, doctors, and displaced persons who no longer have water, food, or electricity.
The Israeli army said that “a terrorist squad,” hiding among a group of civilians at the hospital, attacked its troops, and 21 Palestinians died in retaliatory gunfire.
On the same day, the Israeli army claimed that they found a militant arsenal in the basement of the Rantisi children’s hospital.
The military said it had evidence that the Islamist group used the facility to hide some of the Israeli hostages.
Israel declared war on Hamas on Oct. 7 after a massive assault by Hamas fighters who infiltrated Israeli territory, massacred about 1,200 people, and kidnapped another 240.
Since then, Israel’s air, naval, and ground forces have relentlessly attacked the Gaza Strip, leaving more than 11,300 dead, 29,200 injured, and 3,600 missing under the rubble.