On Wednesday, the Israeli military escorted journalists to what remained of Gaza’s massive Al-Shifa hospital complex, destroyed by bombings, exposing what was presented as a network of Hamas tunnels.
The establishment has been the focal point of weeks of fighting, with the military convinced the Palestinian Islamic Movement maintains weapons depots and a command center there, something Hamas has always denied.
AFP was one of about twenty journalists invited to visit the site at dawn. All published photos, videos and interviews are subject to military censorship.
Exposed power lines, desolate urban landscape, muddy streets, broken windows. A few meters underground, a narrow tunnel.
“It’s very long,” assures Colonel Elad Zuri, commander of the 7th Brigade. “This tunnel leads from the city to the hospital,” he assures, leading journalists to a kitchen with a sink, a toilet and a room with two metal beds and air conditioning.
When they want to protect themselves, Hamas fighters “go down and use hospitals as human shields and can stay there for a long time,” he added. But journalists could not go to other institutions. Failing that, they were able to observe that the weapons, ammunition and explosives displayed by the military and accordingly belonged to Hamas.
The visit came after Israel and Hamas struck a deal to release 50 hostages in the Gaza Strip in exchange for 150 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons during a four-day ceasefire along the Palestinian border.
The military on Sunday released images from surveillance cameras at al-Shifa Hospital, the largest in the Gaza Strip, showing hostages being brought into the facility on Oct. 7, the day of the attack on Hamas in southern Israel.
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