The Israel Defense Forces brought cameras into the tunnels under Al Shifa Hospital in the Gaza Strip this week and exposed not just Hamas's sprawling operations there but also the terrorist group's enablers in the media.
The footage, taken by Fox News as well as by the IDF itself, revealed a massive, 160-meter-long underground complex complete with bathrooms, a kitchen, and other air-conditioned rooms. It was clear evidence that Hamas hid behind the hospital's patients and staff while launching attacks against Israel—a war crime that justifies the IDF's takeover of the hospital last week, according to international law.
The Section of Tunnel Complex beneath Al-Shifa which was Discovered today is Massive, with several Bedrooms, Offices, and other Large Underground-Structures having been Found. pic.twitter.com/CRfcEy5GSD
— OSINTdefender (@sentdefender) November 22, 2023
In retrospect, the widespread both-sides news coverage of the Al Shifa saga appears hard to justify, not to say ridiculous. The media have made a practice of presenting Hamas's propaganda as at least as credible as Israel's evidence-backed claims, despite the group's record of lying about everything from Palestinian deaths to its massacre of Israeli civilians on Oct. 7.
The latest video of Hamas's terror tunnels just confirmed what Israel had been saying and showing for weeks, with the backing of American intelligence. Mainstream media reports about Hamas's use of Al Shifa date back at least to 2006, when a PBS documentary showed terrorists from the group appearing to run the place. In 2008, the New York Times reported how "armed Hamas militants in civilian clothes roved the halls."
Nevertheless, until as recently as a few days ago, news outlets questioned the evidence that Hamas was operating out of Al Shifa. They took Hamas's denials deadly seriously and suggested Israel was running out of time to make its case.
CNN, Nov. 20: "What We Know About What Israel Says It Has Found at Al Shifa":
Since launching its operation at the hospital on November 15, the Israel Defense Forces have shown images of a tunnel shaft and military equipment, but have yet to show conclusive proof of the large-scale command and control center it alleges is there.
Hamas, the Gaza Health Ministry and hospital officials have denied Israel’s claims, saying that hospitals in the Strip have only been used to treat patients. ...
The IDF is now under pressure to prove Israel’s long-standing assertion with its promise of "concrete evidence." Its ability to continue its operation in Gaza, and the credibility of Israel, could be at stake as the number killed in Gaza surpasses 12,000, according to authorities in the Hamas-controlled Strip.
NBC News, Nov. 18: "Information Missteps Have Led to Questions About Israel’s Credibility":
Israel’s public-relations machine has gone into overdrive in recent weeks to make the case that its pummeling of Gaza has been necessary and conducted in a way meant to minimize civilian deaths. ...
But in its recent outreach to global allies, Israel has released several pieces of inaccurate or disputed information including claiming that an Arabic calendar was a shift schedule for Hamas kidnappers, and using curtains as evidence that hostage videos had been filmed in a hospital.
The widespread reaction calling out these questionable pieces of evidence has weakened Israel’s credibility, according to some experts, and could lead to a boy-who-cried-wolf situation unless concrete evidence for a Hamas headquarters is found beneath Gaza’s Al Shifa hospital, one of Israel’s key contentions at this stage of the war.
Guardian, Nov. 17: "IDF Evidence So Far Falls Well Short of Al Shifa Hospital Being Hamas HQ":
Prior to their capture of Dar Al Shifa hospital, the Israel Defense Forces went to great lengths to depict the medical complex as a headquarters for Hamas, from where its attacks on Israel were planned.
The evidence produced so far falls well short of that. IDF videos have shown only modest collections of small arms, mostly assault rifles, recovered from the extensive medical complex. ...
Even the videos produced so far have raised questions under scrutiny.
Washington Post, Nov. 16: "Israeli Troops Scour Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital for Evidence of Hamas":
Israel has yet to produce findings that corroborate its claims that Al Shifa sits atop a Hamas headquarters and was central to the militant group’s operations in northern Gaza. ...
Israel had hoped the raid would turn up firm evidence of substantial militant activity in Al Shifa, a European diplomat told the Post on Thursday. But the absence of clear proof to date has already prompted Western allies including the United States to increase pressure on Israel to accept a pause in fighting, according to the diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter. ...
Hamas and the hospital’s medical staff have denied the accusation.
"We would not let anyone use the hospital for any non-civilian or nonmedical purposes," said Qudra, the Health Ministry spokesman.
New York Times, Nov. 16: "Pressure Mounts as Israel Combs Through Gaza Hospital for Hamas’s Presence":
Israeli troops on Thursday scoured the largest hospital in Gaza for a second day, searching for a Hamas presence or any evidence that the armed Palestinian group had used tunnels underneath it as a secret base, even as Israel came under increasing pressure from Western allies to curtail civilian deaths and ease the suffering of Gaza’s population. ...
Israel’s claims that Hamas, the armed Palestinian group that controls Gaza, operated from within the sprawling Al Shifa complex have been central to its defense of its military campaign in Gaza. ...
A Hamas spokesman, Osama Hamdan, on Thursday accused Israel of planting the guns, protective vests and military uniforms and other equipment that Israel said it had found in the hospital complex. At a news conference in Beirut, Mr. Hamdan called the Israeli video "a weak and ridiculous narration." He added, "The occupation resorted to this farce to cover up the fall of its alleged story."
Reuters, Nov. 15: "Israeli Military Shows Video of Arms It Says Were Found at Al Shifa Hospital":
The army simultaneously released a video that it said showed some of the material recovered from an undisclosed building within the large hospital complex, including automatic weapons, grenades, ammunition and flak jackets.
Hamas, which is battling Israeli forces within the Gaza, dismissed the announcement as "lies and cheap propaganda". ...
The military made no mention on Wednesday of finding any tunnel entrances in Al Shifa. It has previously said that Hamas had built a network of tunnels under the hospital.
Both Hamas and hospital staff have denied this.
Associated Press, Nov. 14: "Is Hamas Hiding in Gaza’s Main Hospital? Israel’s Claim Is Now a Focal Point in a Dayslong Stalemate":
Shifa is Gaza’s largest and best-equipped hospital. Israel, without providing visual evidence, claims the facility also is used by Hamas for military purposes. It says Hamas has built a vast underground command complex center below the hospital, connected by tunnels, something Gaza health officials and Hamas deny.
On Thursday, Israeli forces arrested Al Shifa's director, Mohammad Abu Salmiya, on suspicion of enabling the hospital to be used by Hamas as an operations center. In a joint statement, the IDF and Israel's Shin Bet security service noted that "considerable evidence was revealed that the hospital, under his direct management, served as a headquarters of the terrorist organization Hamas."