The Pentagon on Tuesday shared declassified intelligence that it says indicates Hamas militants operate out of hospitals in Gaza, bolstering Israel’s claims that armed Palestinian groups are using the medical facilities for combat and military operations.
Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said Hamas and other militants such as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) are operating out of “some” hospitals in Gaza, including the largest one in the territory, the al-Shifa hospital.
Singh added they use the hospitals as a “way to conceal and support their military operations and hold hostages.”
“They have tunnels underneath these hospitals,” she told reporters at a briefing. “Hamas and PIJ members operate a command and control node from al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. They have weapons stored there and are prepared to respond to an Israeli military operation against the facility.”
Singh did not explain how the Pentagon has corroborated the information but said multiple U.S. agencies are collecting and analyzing information.
“This is information that was downgraded and collected by the intelligence community,” she said.
Al-Shifa has become an intense battleground as Israeli troops and Palestinian militants fight outside of the medical center.
Human rights groups, the World Health Organization and the United Nations have warned that civilians and patients are increasingly endangered because of the fighting around hospitals and argue the fighting is leading to massive humanitarian concerns as facilities struggle to keep the lights on and access safe water.
The laws of war prohibit hospitals from being attacked unless they are used as a military base of operations.
While Israel has released videos and photos of what appears to be tunnels and other Hamas assets at Gaza hospitals, Hamas and Palestinian health officials under Hamas authority have denied the claims.
The White House on Tuesday also shared what it said was intelligence that indicates Palestinian militants use hospital sites as a base of operations.
But National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the U.S. does not support any blanket targeting of hospitals.
“Now to be clear, we do not support striking a hospital from the air,” Kirby said, “and we do not want to see a firefight.”