The United States has confirmed Israel’s claim that underground Hamas command centers are operating in some hospitals in the Gaza Strip.
“Now, on the hospitals, I can confirm for you that 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,” NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said at a briefing aboard Air Force One en route to San Francisco.
“Hamas and the Palestinian — Palestinian Islamic Jihad — PIJ — members operate a command-and-control node from Al-Shifa in Gaza City. They have stored weapons there, and they’re prepared to respond to an Israeli military operation against that facility,” he told reporters.
Hamas and Al-Shifa hospital officials denied the allegation.
“Now, to be clear, we do not support striking a hospital from the air, and we do not want to see a firefight in the hospital where innocent people, helpless people, sick people are simply trying to get the medical care that they deserve — not to be caught in a crossfire,” Kirby said, insisting hospitals and patients must be protected.
The top U.S. security official pointed out that Israel’s military operation in Gaza is challenging because Hamas has deeply embedded itself within the civilian population.
Kirby reiterated that Hamas’ actions did not lessen Israel’s responsibilities to protect civilians in Gaza, adding, “And this is something that we obviously are going to continue to have an active conversation with our counterparts about.”
Al-Shifa Hospital, which is the largest medical complex in Gaza, has reportedly been attacked multiple times, leaving several people dead and many others injured. The intensive care unit suffered damage from bombardment, while areas of the hospital where displaced people were sheltering have also been damaged.
WHO said that tens of thousands of displaced people who had sought shelter on the hospital grounds are fleeing the area amid horrifying reports of the hospital facing repeated attacks from Israeli forces. There are reports that some people who fled the hospital have been shot at and killed.
Kirby said over the last 24 hours, some 115 more trucks carrying humanitarian aid were able to enter Gaza. That brings the total now to around 1,100.
“Again, we know it’s not enough. We know more must be done. We got to accelerate it. We got to increase it. But we’re up over a thousand trucks now that have gotten in,” he said.
Kirby told reporters that since November 1, more than 600 Americans and their family members have been able to depart Gaza and seek the support of the U.S. embassy team and consular team on the ground in Egypt.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the latest developments in the conflict. The President and the Prime Minister discussed at length ongoing efforts to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas, including many children and a number of Americans, according to the White House.
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