November 23, 2023 - 3:17 pm
Updated November 23, 2023 - 9:07 pm
JERUSALEM — Nearly a month ago, the Israeli military unveiled a detailed 3D model of Gaza’s Shifa Hospital showing a series of underground installations that it said was part of an elaborate Hamas command-and-control center under the territory’s largest health care facility.
Days after taking control of the hospital, the military has yet to unveil any infrastructure nearly as sprawling and developed as the purported center. But it has discovered what it says is an underground bunker accessible by a narrow tunnel and videos appearing to show Hamas terrorists dragging hostages through the hospital’s hallways.
Israel has also displayed a cache of weapons that it says soldiers found in their search of the hospital. The military says there will be much more to come.
Israeli military officials say those initial illustrations were “conceptual” and not meant to be taken literally.
They have also promised many more discoveries as troops continue the painstaking task of scouring a complex spread out over more than 10 acres.
“It’s going to take time,” said Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, a military spokesman.
Israel has long claimed that Hamas uses hospitals, schools, mosques and residential neighborhoods as human shields.
In particular, it says Hamas has hidden command centers and bunkers underneath the sprawling grounds of Shifa. The United States says its own intelligence corroborates those claims. Hamas denies the allegations.
Israel says other hospitals are similarly used for military purposes. It has ordered the evacuations of a number of Gaza hospitals, including Shifa, as it presses ahead with its ground operation against Hamas.
The Israeli military brought journalists, including an Associated Press correspondent, into Gaza on Wednesday to show them what it said was a Hamas military facility under Shifa.
Soldiers unveiled what appeared to be a subterranean dormitory accessible by a heavily fortified underground tunnel that Israeli authorities say stretches for hundreds of yards. The military said the dormitory lay behind a blast-proof door with an opening meant to be used by Hamas snipers.
The quarters included an air conditioner, kitchen, bathroom and pair of metal cots in a room fashioned from rusty white tile.
The military has also released videos showing dozens of AK-47s, ammunition and other military equipment it said was found in the hospital’s MRI unit. Additionally, it said it discovered a Toyota pickup filled with weapons in a hospital garage.
The military has also recovered the bodies of two Israeli hostages that it says were found near the hospital compound. Military spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari showed journalists the stretcher where the Israeli military found one of the bodies.
“By now the truth is clear: Hamas wages war from hospitals, wages terror from hospitals,” Hagari said. “Everyone who cares about the future of humanity must condemn Hamas.”