U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed that Hamas and another Gaza terrorist organization were using al-Shifa Hospital as a command center, according to newly declassified material.
The U.S. intelligence indicates that the hospital was made a legitimate target thanks to the maze of tunnels and rooms constructed beneath it for terrorist use, the New York Times reported. The Israeli military came under heavy criticism for its military offensive against the hospital in November.
A senior U.S. intelligence official told the Times that not only did Hamas use it as a command post, but they also used it to detain “at least a few hostages.”
“The U.S. Intelligence Community is confident in its judgment on this topic and has independently corroborated information on HAMAS and PIJ’s use of the hospital complex for a variety of purposes related to its campaign against Israel,” the declassified material stated, according to the Associated Press. Those uses, it said, included “to house command infrastructure, exercise certain command and control activities,” and store weapons.
The intelligence also reportedly indicated that both Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups had frantically evacuated the facility just days before the Israeli assault.
The declassified intelligence offers the first glimpse into U.S. deliberations regarding the hospital beyond blanket endorsements of Israel’s own assessments.
In November, White House National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby had said only that “we have information that confirms that Hamas is using that particular hospital for a command and control node.”
Israeli special forces escorted Fox News Foreign Correspondent Trey Yingst and at least one other reporter into the tunnels beneath the hospital just hours after it was taken.
Yingst saw evidence of a hasty withdrawal by Hamas forces including scattered supplies and small arms weapons.
Hamas had repeatedly denied claims that it was using the hospital in the lead-up to Israel’s assault. Nevertheless, Hamas fighters engaged in intense gun battles with Israeli forces around the facility.