Not-So-Secret Hamas Command Bunker Located Under Gaza Hospital

Hamas has turned hospital into 'Hollywood sound-stage'

Palestinians in the morgue of Shifa Hospital / AP

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Hamas operates a sophisticated command bunker that is located beneath Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza and despite the fact that journalists are regularly invited to meet with Hamas officials there, the existence of the hospital command center has gone unreported, according to Tablet Magazine.

So why isn’t the fact that Hamas uses Shifa Hospital as a command post making headlines? In part, it’s because the location is so un-secret that Hamas regularly meets with reporters there. On July 15, for example, William Booth of the Washington Post wrote that the hospital "has become a de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders, who can be seen in the hallways and offices." Back in 2006, PBS even aired a documentary showing how gunmen roam the halls of the hospital, intimidate the staff, and deny them access to protected locations within the building—where the camera crew was obviously prohibited from filming. Yet the confirmation that Hamas is using Gaza City’s biggest hospital as its de facto headquarters was made in the last sentence of the eighth paragraph of Booth’s story—which would appear to be the kind of rookie mistake that is known in journalistic parlance as "burying the lede."

There is absolutely no uncertainty on the part of Israel about the existence of the underground Hamas bunker. They built it in 1983, and know the precise location of the bunker that is now being used as a main Hamas command bunker.

Reporters in Gaza know the rules of reporting on Shifa Hospital, and fear the well-known consequences of breaking them, and the result is that it has been turned into "a Hollywood sound-stage filled with real, live war victims who are used to score propaganda points, while the terrorists inside the hospital itself are erased from photographs and news accounts through a combination of pressure and threats."

To that end, the rules of reporting from Shifa Hospital are easy for any newbie reporter to understand: No pictures of members of Hamas with their weapons inside the hospital, and don’t go anywhere near the bunkers, or the operating rooms where members of Hamas are treated. While reporters can meet with members of Hamas inside the hospital—because it’s obviously convenient for everyone—they are not allowed to take pictures. Reporters inside Gaza who are risking their lives to bring the world whatever news they can should hardly be blamed for obeying Hamas’s media rules, which the organization has helpfully written down in case anyone has doubts about what they are permitted to show.

Reporters who bravely or foolishly violate Hamas’ rules even on their social media accounts can be seen to repent with such alacrity that it’s not difficult to imagine how scared and dependent they are. Nick Casey of the Wall Street Journal, for example, tweeted that "You have to wonder w the shelling how patients at Shifa hospital feel as Hamas uses it as a safe place to see media." Casey then quickly deleted his tweet, which didn’t save him from being put on a list of journalists who "lie/fabricate info for Israel" and "must be sued" – a threat which is surely the least of Casey’s fears. Last week, French-Palestinian journalist Radjaa Abu Dagg was summoned to Shifa by Hamas and interrogated. He wrote about the experience of "attempted intimidation" for Liberation—and then quickly had the paper take down the article.

It can hardly be lost on any sane journalist that tempers in combat zones can be short, and that Hamas has used the kidnapping of foreign journalists like Alan Johnson of the BBC to advance its own agenda. The fact that Hamas has closed the border and will not let journalists in or out of Gaza can’t make journalists who being used as de facto human shields by a terrorist organization feel any more eager to offend their hosts.

A recent NBC report of a strike near Shifa Hospital makes no mention of the well-known use of the hospital as a "has become a de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders."

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