Israel-Hamas war, raid on Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza

Al-Shifa hospital and surroundings in Gaza on November 7. Maxar Technologies/AP/File

Israel said its military launched a “targeted” operation against Hamas early on Wednesday morning inside Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa, after accusing the terror group of using the medical center as a command base.

Conditions at the hospital have deteriorated rapidly in recent days amid intense fighting, with doctors warning of a “catastrophic” situation for patients, staff and displaced people still inside.

Here’s what we know so far:

The raid: The Israel Defense Forces said it had begun “a precise and targeted operation” against Hamas at Al-Shifa, with fighting ongoing.

Israeli tanks and military vehicles were “inside the courtyard of Al-Shifa Hospital,” Khader Al Za’anoun, a reporter for the Palestinian news agency, Wafa, told CNN.

A doctor inside Al-Shifa told CNN they were given 30 minutes’ warning before the Israeli operation began.

“We were asked to stay clear of the windows and the balconies. We can hear the armored vehicles, they are very close to the entrance of the complex,” Dr. Khaled Abu Samra said.

Why is Israel doing this? Israel has accused Hamas of using Al-Shifa hospital as a command and control base.

Hospitals are protected in times of war under international humanitarian law, but Israel said in a statement that Hamas’s “continued military use of the Shifa hospital jeopardizes its protected status.” 

The United States on Tuesday cited intelligence suggesting Hamas has a command node under the hospital, seeming to back Israel’s assertion.

The Pentagon said the US has newly declassified intelligence that claims to show that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad were using hospitals — including Al-Shifa — as a “way to conceal and support their military operations and hold hostages.”

CNN cannot independently verify the US or Israeli claims. 

The IDF says so far no hostages have been found inside Al-Shifa. One of Israel’s goals of the conflict is to rescue the more than 200 people taken captive by Hamas.

What do Palestinian officials say: Palestinian Health Minister Dr. Mai Al-Kaila has said that the Israeli army raid represents, “a new crime against humanity, medical staff, and patients” and could have “catastrophic consequences” for patients and medical staff.

Her health ministry is based in Ramallah and falls under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA) — and is separate from the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in Gaza.

A statement from Hamas blamed both Israel and the United States for the Israeli army raid on the hospital. By supporting what it called Israel’s “false narrative” – that Hamas was using Al-Shifa as a command and control base – it said the US had given Israel, “a green light … to commit more massacres against civilians.”

Humanitarian situation: Doctors and journalists have described catastrophic conditions inside Al-Shifa, including desperate efforts to keep premature babies alive and limited procedures taking place by candlelight.

Journalist Al Za’anoun said people inside the hospital “are starving, there is no food or drinkable water, we barely get tap water for one hour a day.”

He said dozens of corpses are set to be buried in a mass grave in the yard of the hospital complex, as relatives cannot leave to bury their loved ones.

“The scene is horrifying, the smell of the dead people is unbearable, most of the bodies are of women and children,” Al Za’anoun told CNN.

Thousands of Palestinians are believed to be sheltering in and around Al-Shifa, seeking to escape Israel’s air and ground offensive.