US, Israeli lies about “command center” at Al-Shifa hospital fall apart

Israeli soldiers conduct combat operations at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. [AP Photo/Israel Defense Forces via AP]

For weeks, Israel used its claims that the Al-Shifa hospital, Gaza’s largest, was being used as a military command center to justify a relentless bombardment of the hospital that killed dozens of people and prevented the wounded from entering or leaving, in a series of flagrant war crimes.

Admitting that there were no hostages inside the hospital, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday, “We had strong indications that they [the hostages] were held in the Shifa hospital. If they were [there], they were taken out.”

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In an October 27 post on X, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) asserted that Al Shifa “acts as the main headquarters for Hamas’ terrorist activity.” The post was accompanied by an animation showing a sprawling complex, spanning hundreds of meters, underneath the hospital. Israel’s claims were reiterated multiple times by officials from the White House, Pentagon and State Department.

On Tuesday, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby asserted, “We have information that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad use some hospitals in the Gaza Strip, including Al-Shifa, and tunnels underneath them to conceal and to support their military operations and to hold hostages.”

Biden repeated this unsubstantiated claim on Thursday, declaring, “Here’s the situation: You have a circumstance where the first war crime is being committed by Hamas by having their headquarters, their military hidden under a hospital. And that’s a fact.”

Asked by a reporter to “detail for us what kind of evidence the U.S. has seen that Hamas has a command center under Al-Shifa Hospital,” Biden replied, “No, I can’t tell you. I won’t tell you.”

On Wednesday, the IDF posted a video showing a half-dozen assault rifles, two flak jackets, and a computer which it claims were hidden behind an MRI machine at Al-Shifa. There was no attempt to explain why an MRI machine, with its powerful magnetic field, did not cause the weapons to fly across the room when it was in operation.

This image taken from a video released by the Israeli Defense Forces, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023, shows a few rifles the IDF says were found at the MRI center at Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. [AP Photo/Israel Defense Forces via AP]

Israel’s “evidence” was so flimsy that even the US government was not shameless enough to back it.

In a press briefing Thursday, Al Jazeera correspondent Patty Culhane asked Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh, “So you’re saying that the video of a blurred laptop, flak jacket, a handful of rifles—that that backs up what you’ve been saying that Hamas is operating in the hospital?”

To this, Singh replied, “Hamas uses—Al-Shifa being one of them—hospitals in Gaza to conduct and to operate out of and to further execute on terrorist actions.”

Culhane asked, “Is there video to back that up?” to which Singh replied, “I’m just going to leave it at that.”

Later on Thursday, after searching the hospital area for two days, the IDF claimed to have found a vehicle on the hospital grounds packed with assault rifles and an opening leading to an underground structure.

In the 1980s, Israel itself undertook a renovation of the hospital, including what Haaretz noted was a “large cement basement that housed the hospital’s laundry and various administrative services.”

Since the start of Israel’s assault on Gaza, the World Health Organization has recorded at least 137 attacks on healthcare facilities, resulting in 521 deaths and 686 injuries, including 16 deaths and 38 injuries of health workers.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza is disastrous, amid mass hunger and dehydration. Thursday marked the fifth consecutive day with no update to the death toll, which stood at over 11,078 on Friday, of whom 4,506 were said to be children and 3,027 women. The United Nations attributed the lack of reporting to the “collapse of services and communications at hospitals in the north.”

Gaza’s telecommunications services were again shut down on Thursday, after providers announced that they had completely run out of fuel, and after Israel conducted strikes on communications infrastructure.

For the second consecutive day, no aid trucks entered Gaza, following the collapse of humanitarian infrastructure in the country due to lack of fuel. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East said that it will no longer be able to coordinate any humanitarian aid convoys starting Friday.

Israeli forces attacked the Central Petroleum Station at the northern entrance of Al Maghazi refugee camp, killing nine people and injuring dozens more. The picture of the humanitarian situation provided by the United Nations is disastrous:

Active ground operations in the heart of Gaza city have continued to disrupt the movement of rescue teams and ambulances and people to obtain their essential needs, particularly food and water. Households in the western neighbourhoods of Gaza city appealed for help after their remaining food and drinking water had been depleted. Reportedly, they were unable to leave their homes because of the presence of Israeli ground troops and fighting. Multiple appeals by stranded households and family members underneath struck buildings and homes went unanswered; the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has been unable to respond to hundreds of calls to assist and evacuate.

There have been no bakeries active in northern Gaza for over ten days, and no wheat flour is available on the market. In a post on X, the World Food Program wrote, “23 bakeries on Oct 7th. 5 bakeries on Oct 17th. 1 bakery on Oct 31st. ZERO bakeries today. @WFP’s last contracted bakery in #Gaza has shut down due to the lack of fuel. Today, nearly the entire population is in need of food assistance.”