Jerusalem, Israel — The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has released what it claims to be evidence of Hamas using civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and children's playgrounds, as shields for its attacks on Israel. Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief spokesperson for the Israeli military, presented this evidence during a news briefing on Sunday.
Hagari pointed to the Indonesian Hospital in northern Gaza and other locations, alleging that Hamas is using these sites to protect themselves from Israeli retaliation for their rocket attacks. Aerial images were shown, with Hagari highlighting what he claimed were rocket launchers positioned in close proximity to the hospital.
"Only 75 meters, 80 meters to the hospital. Here, the IDF identified a launch pad, meaning, they launched rockets from here," Hagari asserted, emphasizing that Hamas deliberately places launchers near the hospital, presumably expecting that Israeli airstrikes on these targets would damage the medical facility.
In addition to the Indonesian Hospital, Hagari also displayed aerial images of what he identified as a tunnel opening at Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani Hospital. He claimed, "A tunnel that was being used for terror infrastructures in the Qatari hospital. If it wasn't enough... the terrorists also shoot at our soldiers from within the hospital."
Earlier on the same day, the IDF announced that they had identified "launch pits" and "rocket launchers in an old children's playground in the Gaza Strip." Nighttime video footage was presented, purporting to show four launching barrels for rockets situated "only five meters from a children's swimming pool."
An independent safety expert from CNN, reviewing the footage, acknowledged that it did appear to support the IDF's claims.
In the context of this development, it is essential to consider the background of the ongoing conflict. The IDF made these accusations against Hamas following significant criticism of the barrage of strikes it has launched against the densely populated Gaza Strip, home to over 2 million Palestinians.
The conflict began when Israel launched its military campaign against Hamas after the militant group allegedly killed approximately 1,400 people in Israel during a surprise attack the previous month. Israel claims that more than 200 people remain captive as a result of these actions.
The extensive Israeli airstrikes on Gaza have damaged civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, United Nations shelters, and refugee camps, resulting in civilian casualties. According to Dr. Mai Al-Kaila, the Palestinian Minister of Health in Ramallah, who drew data from medical sources in the Hamas-controlled enclave, more than 9,700 people have been killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza since October 7.
The IDF contends that its primary target is Hamas leaders, fighters, and infrastructure.
Regarding efforts to evacuate civilians from Gaza, Hagari accused Hamas of obstructing their movement toward the south of the Gaza Strip, as urged by the IDF. He mentioned that "corridors" established by Israel for safe evacuation had to be closed due to Hamas attacks in the area.
Hagari emphasized that the IDF is actively trying to protect civilians in Gaza, stating, "We are at war with Hamas, not with the civilians in Gaza." He reported that over 1.5 million multi-colored flyers, conveying different messages, have been dropped into the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, more than 19,734 phone calls have been made to warn people to leave certain areas, and over six million recorded messages have been sent in Arabic, urging civilians to evacuate to the south.
The United States' special envoy in the Middle East, David Satterfield, noted on Saturday that between 800,000 and a million people have fled from the northern to southern parts of the Gaza Strip, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis. Critical supplies remain in short supply during Israel's siege on the territory, and the IDF has continued its strikes south of the evacuation line.