The Israeli army claims it has uncovered a tunnel shaft under the beleaguered al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza.
In a statement on Sunday, the army said it found a 55-metre-long (180 ft), 10-metre-deep (32 ft) tunnel under Gaza’s largest medical facility, which has been under siege by Israeli troops for several days.
The army published a video on its official Telegram channel showing a soldier lowering himself into the tunnel. The footage was shot with two separate cameras on November 17, it said.
The videos show a staircase leading to an arched concrete passage that ends in what appears to be a door. The army says it is the entrance of the tunnel shaft with “a blast-proof door and a firing hole”.
According to the statement, the tunnel was found “in the area of the hospital underneath a shed alongside a vehicle containing numerous weapons including RPGs, explosives, and Kalashnikov rifles”.
Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari told reporters the entrance was uncovered when a military bulldozer knocked down the outside wall of the hospital complex and found a fortified shaft with a spiral staircase descending 10 metres.
“It’s a huge one which has metal [spiral] stairs, then it goes along for 55 metres… and reaches a blast door,” said Hagari, indicating that troops had not yet tried to open the door for fear it would be booby-trapped.
Beyond the door, intelligence suggested either the tunnel would split or there would be “a big room for command and control”, he added, saying troops would continue searching the area as there could be access shafts from nearby houses.
Israel has made al-Shifa Hospital a focal point of its operations since the army entered it on Wednesday, claiming it harbours a Hamas command centre – a claim Hamas as well as staff working at the hospital have denied.
“It’s probably one out of dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of tunnels. We all know there are tunnels in Gaza,” Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst Marwan Bishara said.
“The problem is not finding a tunnel. The problem is the Israeli excuse – and their supporters in London and Washington too – that there was ‘a city under a city’.”
Israeli occupation forces breached the surgical department of Al Shifa Hospital today, staying for over 5 hours.
Medical staff and patients endured an unwarranted investigation, resulting in humiliation. One patient was arrested. Urgently calling on the @UN United Nations and…
— Ahmed El Mokhallalati (@AMokhallalati) November 19, 2023
The Israeli army on Sunday also said that a captive soldier was executed and two foreign captives held at al-Shifa Hospital. The army is searching for some 240 people Hamas kidnapped to Gaza after the October 7 cross-border assault.
One of the hostages was a 19-year-old Israeli army conscript, Noa Marciano, whose body was recovered near al-Shifa last week. Hamas said she died in an Israeli air strike and issued a video that appeared to show her corpse, unmarked except for a head wound.
The Israeli military said a forensic examination found she had sustained non-life-threatening injuries from such a strike.
“According to intelligence information – solid intelligence information – Noa was taken by Hamas terrorists inside the walls of Shifa hospital. There, she was murdered by a Hamas terrorist,” Hagari said without elaborating.
In his televised briefing, Hagari said Hamas attackers had also brought a Nepalese and a Thai captive, among foreign workers seized in the October 7 raid, to al-Shifa. He did not name the two hostages.
Hamas did not immediately comment on Hagari’s statements. It previously said it took some hostages to hospitals for treatment.
At least 13,000 Palestinians, 5,500 of them children, have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched its air and ground assault, the Gaza health ministry said.
The siege of al-Shifa Hospital, the focal point of the six-week “genocide”, has sparked international outcry, with the World Health Organization describing it as a “death zone” when its team visited the facility on Saturday.
More than 7,000 people, including patients in critical condition and newborn babies fighting for their lives, were sheltered inside al-Shifa before those who were able to move were forced out this weekend.
Thirty-one premature babies were evacuated on Sunday and taken to the European and Nasser hospitals in the south of the Gaza Strip.
According to reports from medical staff inside al-Shifa, some patients remain at the hospital and were interrogated earlier on Sunday.