Israel is pressing its case that Hamas is using hospitals as cover, releasing a pair of videos from inside Gaza’s main children’s hospital that showed weapons and explosives purportedly found in the medical center, and a room where the military said hostages were kept.
While the Health Ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas, on Tuesday disputed nearly every assertion made in the initial Israeli video, it acknowledged that the footage was taken from inside Al-Rantisi Specialized Hospital for Children in northern Gaza. The remaining patients and staff are believed to have left the hospital over the weekend after it was surrounded by Israeli forces.
U.S. intelligence supports the Israeli allegation of Hamas operating within and beneath hospitals, a National Security Council spokesman said on Tuesday.
Israeli troops entered shortly thereafter, and took videos that the military released on Monday and Tuesday as part of a campaign to persuade skeptics that Hamas had turned hospitals into safe houses and command centers and has built tunnels underneath them.
“This is not the last hospital like this in Gaza, and the world should know that,” said Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military’s chief spokesman. “It’s a crime.”
In the first of the videos, a six-minute presentation released on Monday, Admiral Hagari walks viewers through what he says was found in the basement of the hospital. The Israeli military followed that on Tuesday with a second video, just over two minutes long, posted on X, formerly Twitter. That video purports to show troops rushing into the building and appearing to find explosives, weapons and the room where Admiral Hagari said hostages were kept.
Both videos contained a series of assertions that could not be independently verified. The first includes well-displayed evidence — guns, explosives and other weaponry all arranged as if by police showing the haul from a drug raid — whose provenance similarly could not be confirmed.
The second, though, shows troops in action appearing to find the weaponry that would be showcased in the longer video.
Osama Hamadan, a Hamas spokesman, speaking at a news conference from Beirut on Tuesday called Admiral Hagari’s presentation a “lie and charade.” There was no immediate comment from Gazan officials or Hamas on the second video.
Monday’s video included footage of a piece of paper taped to a wall in the hospital’s basement. Admiral Hagari said the paper — a grid with Arabic words and numbers within each square — could be a schedule for guarding hostages “where every terrorist writes his name.”
The paper included a mark that appeared to be an illegible signature, but did not seem to otherwise include people’s names — the Arabic words were days of the week and numbers underneath dates. The Gazan Health Ministry said in a statement that the paper, including days and dates, was nothing more than “a regular work shift timetable, a standard administrative practice in hospitals.”
The ministry, however, failed to address one key detail: The calendar begins on Oct. 7, the day of the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel, and an Arabic title written at the top uses the militants’ name for the assault: “Al Aqsa Flood Battle, 7/10/2023.”
Dr. Mustafa Al Kahlout, the hospital’s director, said on Tuesday that families fleeing Israeli bombardment have sought shelter at Al-Rantisi and other Gazan hospitals. He called on the Red Cross and other international organizations to “inspect all part of the hospitals.”
The video released on Monday by the Israeli military opens with Admiral Hagari standing a few hundred yards from Al-Rantisi. Speaking in English, he points out what he says is the house of a senior Hamas leader, a school next door and a pile of rubble under which there is the entrance to a tunnel that purportedly runs toward the hospital.
The video then cuts to Admiral Hagari inside what he says is the hospital basement. He enters a room with children’s drawings on blue and pink walls. Neatly laid out on the floor is an array of weapons that he says were found in the hospital.
Admiral Hagari then shows what he says is an area connected to the hospital basement where hostages taken in the Oct. 7 attack were purportedly held.
There is a windowless room with couches and curtains covering bare walls where he says hostage videos could be made. There is a chair with a rope on the floor next to it, an “improvised toilet,” a baby bottle and a package of diapers. There is also a motorcycle that he says was used to carry hostages back to Gaza.
“You don’t build an improvised toilet in the basement, unless you want to build an infrastructure to hold hostages,” Admiral Hagari says.
As for what happened to the hostages and Hamas fighters who were purportedly at the hospital, he says, “They might have left with the patients, they might have run away through tunnels and we have signs that they had hostages with them. It’s still under investigation, but there’s enough signs to indicate that.”
For its part, the Gazan Health Ministry said the basement rooms shown were used as shelters “for those fleeing airstrikes. The bathroom shown is a necessity.”
The baby bottle and diapers were nothing special in a children’s hospital, it said. As for the weapons, it added: “We don’t know where they got them.”