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IDF forces blast door into Hamas tunnel beneath Gaza’s Shifa Hospital

The army said Tuesday it had breached a blast door at the end of a Hamas tunnel discovered by forces last week beneath Gaza’s Shifa Hospital, where Israel claims the terror group operates a command center key.

The Israeli military released two images, one showing the open door and the other further inside the tunnel.

Earlier this week, the IDF released images showing the interior of the tunnel shaft and part of the tunnel. After about 55 meters, the tunnel ended in a blast door, likely protecting Hamas’ underground resources.

The Israeli military has claimed for weeks that a large network of tunnels and bunkers exists beneath Shifa.

The tunnel shaft was located within the hospital grounds, under an awning, where IDF troops also found a Hamas van containing weapons, similar to those used by the terrorist group in the October 7 attacks.

Along with Shifa, Israel accuses Hamas of using other hospitals in the Gaza Strip for terrorist purposes.

Hamas terrorists bring a hostage to Shifa Hospital, surveillance footage from October 7, 2023, shows. (FDI)

In a letter sent Tuesday to the World Health Organization, Health Ministry leaders protested Hamas’s operations in Shifa, highlighting closed-circuit video clips showing terrorist activities – including the holding of hostages – in the overhead areas of the hospital. . The letter reminds WHO that such activity is unethical and contravenes all rules of war.

“On November 2, Dr. Michael Ryan, director of WHO’s health emergencies program, said he knew what was happening “on the surface” in Shifa and was aware that use of the facilities medical equipment for military purposes is prohibited under international law. At the same time, he claimed that he doubted that terrorist activities were taking place in Shifa,” Health Minister Uriel Busso and Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman Tov wrote.

Based on evidence from the closed-circuit video, the Ministry of Health accused Ryan of providing the international community with an incorrect and misleading description of the situation in Shifa.

“It is now clear that the WHO ignored the use of medical facilities as human shields and Hamas’s refusal to allow civilians to evacuate from them…The WHO’s failure to resolve these problems is tantamount to its contribution to the continuation of a conflict which causes much suffering. to so many people,” the letter said.

A Hamas van is seen at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, surveillance footage from October 7, 2023, shows. (FDI)

The Health Ministry also refers in the letter to terrorists who Israel says are hiding under Shifa, in other hospitals and schools in Gaza, contrary to international law.

“WHO must demand an immediate end to the use of human shields and health facilities for terrorist purposes. It must also demand the evacuation of all civilian populations to safe areas and the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages,” the ministry’s letter said.

IDF says hostage deal won’t impact mission to topple Hamas

IDF Chief of Staff General Herzi Halevi said Tuesday that military pressure on Hamas was creating “better conditions” for the release of hostages held by the terrorist group in the Gaza Strip, and that this pressure would continue.

The military chief’s comments came ahead of a cabinet vote in which ministers are expected to approve a deal that will see Hamas release around 50 hostages – children, mothers and women – in exchange for a ceasefire. -fire of 4 to 5 days and the release of 150 -300 Palestinian prisoners.

During a visit to the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, Halevi told troops they were doing a “great job, it’s really very impressive.” But he added that “the road is still long”.

“We are determined to follow this path and bring maximum achievements. It’s also about dismantling Hamas – militarily and governmentally –, ensuring security in the region, in the communities in the area surrounding Gaza, and also returning the hostages,” Halevi said.

“All these things work together… the maneuver also creates better conditions for the return of the hostages. This deals blows to Hamas, it creates pressure, and we will continue this pressure,” he added.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi speaks with troops in the Gaza Strip, November 21, 2023. (Israel Defense Force)

Speaking at a daily press briefing, IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari suggested that the emerging hostage deal, which will include a temporary ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, will not have an impact on the army’s main objective, namely eliminating the Hamas terrorist group.

“The goal of returning the hostages is important. Even if this leads to a reduction in some other elements, we will know how to restore our operational gains,” Hagari said in response to a question.

Addressing reports of the deal, Hagari said the military would first notify the hostages’ families and then the public.

“I recommend listening only to reports from official sources. We will inform the public of the truth when we have the facts,” he said.

Following the expected resumption of fighting, the IDF does not intend to allow Palestinians to return to northern Gaza as the army expands its ground offensive in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

The Times of Israel has learned that the IDF is instead considering directing the civilian population to areas away from the planned ground offensive in southern Gaza, in order to reduce civilian casualties.

The population could move into southern Gaza, but not to the north, according to information seen by The Times of Israel.

So far, the Israeli military has declared the small area of ​​al-Mawasi, on Gaza’s southern coast, as a “safe zone” amid the ground offensive in the north and airstrikes across the band.

The Israeli military believes that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is reasonable given the circumstances and wishes to avoid a major crisis that would undermine Israel’s legitimacy to continue its operations in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians flee toward the southern Gaza Strip along Salah al-Din Street in Bureij, designated as a humanitarian corridor by the IDF for fleeing northern Gaza, November 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

Fighting in Gaza has raged since 3,000 Hamas terrorists stormed the border with Israel on October 7, killing at least 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking some 240 hostages. Israel declared war on Hamas in response, launching an air campaign and then a ground offensive aimed at overthrowing the terrorist group that has ruled Gaza since 2007 and securing the release of the hostages.

Sixty-eight Israeli soldiers were killed during the ground operation which began on October 27.

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry says more than 13,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the war began on October 7, including at least 5,500 children and 3,500 women. The figures provided by the terror group cannot be independently verified and do not differentiate between civilians and Hamas members, nor do they distinguish between those killed by Israeli airstrikes and those killed by failed Palestinian rocket attacks.

On Tuesday, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, estimated that around 160,000 people remained in shelters in northern Gaza, despite the UN agency’s failure to provide them with assistance. care and repeated calls from Israel for them to be evacuated to a safe zone in the region. to the south via humanitarian corridors operated by the IDF.

Some 1.7 million Palestinians, about three-quarters of Gaza’s population, have fled their homes, many congregating in U.N.-run schools and other facilities in the southern enclave.

As shelters overflowed, people were forced to sleep outside on the streets, with little protection from the winter rains that have hit the region in recent days.

The UN has warned that Gaza’s 2.3 million residents are critically short of food and water and said the amount of fuel provided is only half of the minimum daily needs. Israel says Hamas has looted Gaza’s resources, including fuel, and has expressed fear that this will continue and has let the terror group continue fueling its rockets and tunnel network.

Israel has resisted calls for a ceasefire unless a significant number of some 240 hostages kidnapped on October 7, including women and children, are released in exchange. There are also concerns that a prolonged pause in fighting could allow Hamas and other terrorist groups to regroup and prepare for the next stage of fighting, hampering the IDF’s ability to operate.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

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