Israel accuses Hamas of launching attacks from inside Gaza hospitals - and signals it could target medical facilities

Israel accused Hamas of launching attacks from hospitals in Gaza, said this was a war crime and signalled that such action could make medical facilities a legitimate target.

A military spokesperson claimed the Israeli authorities had "concrete evidence" that hundreds of Hamas fighters who took part in the 7 October terrorist atrocity in southern Israel afterwards "flooded" into Shifa hospital, the largest medical complex in the Gaza Strip.

"What we are doing now is putting a red flag to the world," Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said at a news briefing.

"We are putting a red flag against the international law."

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The officer shared on a screen what he said was intelligence material proving that Hamas militants were commanding attacks against Israel from inside Shifa hospital.

It was not immediately possible to independently verify the claims.

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"He does his command and control in different departments of the hospital," the spokesperson said, pointing to areas of the facility that were outlined in red.

"He uses these places in order to do command and control for terror activities, launching rockets."

Rear Admiral Hagari showed what he said was a reconstruction of a network of underground tunnels that ran under the hospital.

He alleged that it was possible to enter the tunnels from inside the hospital wards.

"Right now, terrorists move freely in Shifa hospital and other hospitals in Gaza," the spokesperson said.

"Hamas's use of hospitals is systematic... When medical facilities are used for terror purposes, they are liable to lose their protection from attack in accordance with international law.

"The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) will continue making efforts to minimise harm to the civilian population and will continue to act in accordance with international law."

Israel had shared its intelligence on hospitals with the intelligence agencies of its allies, the spokesperson added.

Another IDF spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, was asked by Sky News if the briefing was to soften the ground for the Israeli military to begin strikes on hospitals.

He said: "We have been telling people for the last two weeks to leave the north of the Gaza Strip.

"We've also made several calls to the Shifa hospital. Those calls have not been accepted and have not been responded to.

"And now we understand why, because Hamas is preventing people from moving, Hamas is limiting their capability, this is the reality we are facing."

Asked if hospitals would no longer be afforded protection under international law, he said: "If these actions continue from hospitals, under certain conditions, hospitals could indeed lose the protections that they are entitled to.

"They (Hamas) have to leave hospitals, they have to let people leave hospitals, they can't tell them to say and hold them hostage in hospitals."

Meanwhile, a doctor from north London, who is currently working in Gaza, claimed the Israeli briefing was an "outlandish excuse" to target hospitals.

Dr Ghassan Abu-Sittah said: "At the end of the day, what they need to be reminded of, continuously, by everybody, and press included, is that the targeting of any hospital is a war crime, regardless of what outlandish excuses they might provide."

Asked if it was possible to evacuate a hospital like Shifa, he said: "How do you evacuate 1,700 critically injured patients? 150 ventilated patients?

"How do you evacuate over 100 patients with burns over 40% of their body surface area? And where do you evacuate them? And why should you?

"International humanitarian law was created to protect hospitals, protect them against this attack and this idea that if you tell people that you're going to commit a war crime against them, somehow it becomes less of a war crime. It is a war crime."