Turn on the BBC, CNN, Sky, or other broadcaster and you will be encounter a sneering scepticism over Israel’s claims that Hamas has an HQ and conducts operations from and underneath the al-Shifa hospital. In print, whether you’re reading the liberal press or social media, you will be similarly greeted by anything from a hesitancy to believe Israel’s claims, or outright conspiracy theories about manufactured or planted evidence, fake news, AI images, and other stupidity. Of course, Hamas claims the evidence is planted, but why is everyone else so hesitant to accept what they have been shown?
What makes this reluctance to believe Israel’s evidence most unbelievable is that Amnesty International – by no means a friend of Israel’s – presented evidence themselves almost ten years ago of Hamas’s use of this hospital as a base for operations.
Here is an extract from their report entitled “Gaza: Palestinians tortured, summarily killed by Hamas forces during 2014 conflict”:
As well as carrying out unlawful killings, others abducted by Hamas were subjected to torture, including severe beatings with truncheons, gun butts, hoses and wire or held in stress positions. Some were interrogated and tortured or otherwise ill-treated in a disused outpatient’s clinic within the grounds of Gaza City’s main al-Shifa hospital. At least three people arrested during the conflict accused of “collaboration” died in custody.
The same report also states:
“In the chaos of the conflict, the de facto Hamas administration granted its security forces free rein to carry out horrific abuses including against people in its custody. These spine-chilling actions, some of which amount to war crimes, were designed to exact revenge and spread fear across the Gaza Strip.”
On a side note, this directly addresses the similar reluctance to believe that Hamas is willing to brutalise Gaza’s civilian population to force them to do what it requires of them.
In another report entitled “Strangling Necks’ Abductions, torture and summary killings of Palestinians by Hamas forces during the 2014 Gaza/Israel conflict”, Amnesty notes:
Hamas forces used the abandoned areas of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, including the outpatients’ clinic area, to detain, interrogate, torture and otherwise ill-treat suspects, even as other parts of the hospital continued to function as a medical centre….
Amnesty International has not been able to verify the identities of these six victims of extrajudicial execution but they almost certainly included Saleh Swelim, 32, who Internal Security officers detained at his home at around 8pm on 11 August 2014. The officers took Saleh Swelim to their Jabalia detention facility, known as the al-Sisi centre, and then to the outpatients’ clinic at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, which Hamas forces were using to detain and interrogate suspects. M.S., a younger brother of Saleh Swelim, told Amnesty International that Internal Security officers also detained him that day and that he saw Saleh Swelim both at the al-Sisi facility and at al-Shifa hospital, and that Internal Security officers tortured both of them….
Sabir al-Zain, 56, a father of 11 children, was taken away by four armed men who raided his home in Jabalia at around 5.30am on 17 August 2014, his wife told Amnesty International, adding that she recognized one of the men. She said the four men forced their way into the house, searched it and then took her husband away in a white Hyundai saloon car. She tried to find out his whereabouts for two days before she learned that Sabir al-Zain was detained by Internal Security officers at alShifa hospital….
Ali Da’alsa, 32, an electrician with three children, was taken from al-Shati’ refugee camp on 20 August 2014. His cousin, M.D., who was present, told Amnesty International that two of the men who took Ali Da’alsa away identified themselves as police officers. A third man, whom Ali Da’alsa and M.D. knew to be an Internal Security officer, was also present. The three men took both Ali Da’alsa and M.D. away in a black Hyundai car but after about 10 minutes, during which they assaulted him, the three let M.D. go, dropping him near al-Quds Open University. The next day, M.D. went to the part of al-Shifa hospital used by Internal Security to inquire about Ali Da’alsa. He told Amnesty International: I went to al-Shifa hospital outpatients’ clinic where the Internal Security had a room. I knocked on the door and nobody answered. I kept on knocking on the door until they [Internal Security] finally arrived….
A.H., 43, a member of Fatah, activist and former PA senior officer, told Amnesty International that members of Hamas’s Internal Security force detained him as he left a mosque in the eastern area of Gaza City on 17 August 2014 and took him to the outpatients’ clinic at al-Shifa hospital. There, he said, they tortured him for about two hours by tying his hands behind his back, blindfolding him and beating him, including with a hammer and plastic pipes, causing him to lose consciousness several times, and verbally abused him, before asking him about his links to the PA’s security forces… Internal Security officers left A.F. on a street, still blindfolded. Passers-by called an ambulance which then took him back to al-Shifa hospital, to the emergency room….
F.A., 40, a former senior officer in the PA’s General Intelligence force, told Amnesty International that masked men who said they were from the al-Qassam Brigades broke into his home in Sheikh Radwan and seriously assaulted him. He said: “I was dragged onto the floor below our flat and placed in a corner near the lift where they started beating me. The beatings covered my whole body, not a single spot escaped the beatings with the back of the rifle or sticks; their imprints were everywhere. I went to al-Quds hospital where I was treated. I did not go to al-Shifa hospital because it is said that any member of Fatah or the PA going there would end up with worse injuries.
So, “it is said that any member of Fatah or the PA going there would end up with worse injuries.” Gosh! I wonder why!
Of course now – forgetting their own 2015 press release – Amnesty ignores its own evidence of Hamas using civilian infrastructure like hospitals and has declared Israels urging of Gazans to leave the area as a “war crime”, even claiming it was “impossible” to evacuate hospitals.
I will end by noting that international law does not make this alleged ‘impossibility’ Israel’s problem or responsibility. A hospital only has protected status in a war zone if it is not being used for military purposes. The suggestion that al-Shifa isn’t is absurd.
Coda: The Daily Mail reports that the bodies of two hostages were found in the al-Shifa hospital complex. This raises an awkward question for those denying Hamas’s use of the facility: If their bodies were found at the hospital and they weren’t in the morgue, nor in a ward having just expired following unsuccessful medical treatment, what were they doing at the hospital?
The unavoidable answer is that Hamas was, as before, using the hospital as a detention, torture and execution centre.