Newly declassified information obtained by US spy agencies shows that militants destroyed documents and electronics at the compound before the IDF raid, according to US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
“We have information that continues to support our conclusion that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad used the Shifa Hospital complex and sites beneath it to house command infrastructure, conduct some command and control activities, store some weapons, and hold at least a small number of hostages.” One official said. Palestinian Islamic Jihad is another Gaza-based militant group, allied with Hamas in the fight against Israel but under separate leadership.
The US intelligence assessment largely reflects Israeli military claims that Shifa Hospital was used as a command center.
Critics said Israeli military operations against the complex, which includes the largest and most advanced medical facility in Gaza, were disproportionate to any threat posed by militants who may have been working there. The United Nations said at least 40 patients – including four premature babies – died in the days before and after the strike.
The hospital is now operating at a minimal level, according to the World Health Organization.
The revelation of the intelligence late Tuesday night follows a Washington Post investigation last month into whether civilian harm caused by the IDF's campaign against the hospital complex — encircling, besieging and then raiding the facility and the tunnel underneath — was proportionate to the assessed threat. .
The newspaper's examination, which included an analysis of open source visuals, satellite images and publicly released IDF materials, among other things, found that rooms connected to the tunnel network discovered by the IDF showed no immediate evidence of military use by Hamas and no evidence On that. The tunnels can be accessed from within the hospital wards.
Investigation into the Israeli army attack on the largest hospital in Gaza
Officials said the new details, which were recently declassified, were obtained from intelligence gathered by US spy agencies after the November 15 raid by the Israeli army. They said some of them were collected through technical means.
Officials said in a statement Tuesday night that Hamas fighters “largely evacuated” the hospital “days ago” as the Israeli army approached. Last month, officials told the newspaper that “Hamas had been holding hostages in the hospital compound until shortly before entering Israel.”
These details also support statements by National Security Council and Pentagon spokespersons in November that the two armed groups used Al-Shifa Hospital to hide and support their military operations, including stockpiling weapons and taking hostages.
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller confirmed last month that the United States had evidence that Hamas was operating under the hospital before the Israeli attack. He also addressed widespread criticism that the IDF did not provide sufficient evidence that the hospital was being used as a command center. “I don't think anyone should expect that Hamas's command and control center will look like the White House Situation Room. It is a terrorist organization hiding underground behind civilians,” Miller said.
While US officials say the intelligence community has “high confidence” in their assessment of Hamas’ use of the Shifa channel, they have not publicly released visual or audio evidence. The IDF's claims have also been challenged due to the lack of conclusive evidence.
“The US intelligence community is confident in its judgment on this matter and has independently confirmed information” about Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad using the hospital complex “for a variety of purposes related to their campaign against Israel,” the first US official said.
Officials did not clarify what type of electronic devices were destroyed, but the action may indicate that the militants were trying to hide their presence or prevent Israel from obtaining useful equipment for intelligence purposes.
As the conflict enters its fourth month, Israel says it is withdrawing some of its forces from the Gaza Strip, where more than 22,000 people have been killed and more than 57,000 wounded, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health, in one of the most devastating military campaigns this year. a century.
Israel vowed to end Hamas' rule in Gaza, after thousands of militants stormed Israel early in the morning on October 7, killing at least 1,200 people and taking more than 230 hostage.
Israeli officials say they have weakened Hamas' capabilities by killing thousands of its fighters, including leaders, and destroying parts of its underground tunnel network. But for the most part, the group's most influential figures inside Gaza have proven elusive, as the whereabouts of the group's leader, Yahya Sinwar, appear to be unknown.
John Hudson in Washington contributed to this report.