A senior military officer stated on Wednesday that Israeli forces discovered weapons and “terror infrastructure” during a raid on Al Shifa hospital in the Gaza Strip. He did not provide any visual proof.
Following that, military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht told CNN that no weapons had been discovered, but that further information would be available later in the day.
“We understand that there is a significant Hamas infrastructure in the area, near the hospital.” We’re looking at the possibility of locating it beneath the hospital. It will take some time. “This is a complicated war,” Hecht added.
Hecht said the Israelis forces went into a specific area inside the hospital, adding: “There wasn’t an all-out attack.”
He said fire was exchanged before the Israeli soldiers moved into the hospital but there was “no engagement whatsoever” once they had entered.
The senior official, who declined to be named, told reporters earlier on Wednesday that the soldiers were operating in a part of the hospital away from where medics and patients were located.
“IDF (Israel Defence Forces) soldiers have already found weapons and other terror infrastructure. In the last hour, we saw concrete evidence that Hamas terrorists used the Shifa hospital as a terror headquarters,” the official said.
Hamas denied this.
“(This claim) is nothing but a continuation of the lies and cheap propaganda, through which (Israel) is trying to give justification for its crime aimed at destroying the health sector in Gaza,” Hamas said in a statement.
The Israeli official said soldiers had undertaken “an extremely precise and targeted operation” and did not say how long it would last. “Our soldiers are making a slow and deliberate progress based on our intelligence,” he said.
Israel has said for years that Hamas militants have used Al Shifa, the largest hospital in Gaza, as a cover for their operations. Hamas and hospital staff have repeatedly denied this.
Israeli officials have previously suggested that some of the 240 captives seized by Hamas militants when they went on the rampage in Israel on Oct. 7 might be located underneath Gazan hospitals. However, Hecht said the raid at Al Shifa was not focused on hostages.
“We were focused on bringing intelligence and dismantling certain capabilities that we had intelligence on,” he said.
The anonymous military official said four militants had died in a gunfight outside Al Shifa, as Israeli soldiers sought to enter the complex. He added that soldiers had interrogated individuals found in the area they were searching.
“I have an understanding that one of them is Hamas,” he said.
Israel says 1,200 people were killed in the Hamas attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7. Gaza health officials say more than 11,000 Palestinians are confirmed killed in Israeli’s military offensive since then.