Israeli military intelligence said in a statement provided to The New York Times that “there are several underground complexes used by the leaders of the terrorist organization Hamas to direct their activities.” The complex relies in part on electricity diverted from Al Shifa, the statement said, and there are multiple entrances to it in and around the hospital.
Senior Israeli intelligence officials allowed The Times to review photographs that purported to show secret entrances to the compound from inside the hospital. Signs identifying the location as Al Shifa were clearly visible in the photographs, though their authenticity could not be independently verified.
American officials, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose sensitive intelligence, said they are confident that Hamas has used tunnel networks under hospitals, in particular Al Shifa, for command and control areas as well as for weapons storage.
The practice by Hamas has been longstanding, they said, adding that the United States and Israel have independently developed intelligence about Hamas’ use of the tunnel network under Al Shifa Hospital.
There are other accounts of Hamas using Al Shifa, as well. In 2008, armed Hamas fighters in civilian clothing were seen roving the hospital during a three-week war between the militants and Israel, according to New York Times reporting in Gaza at the time. The militants claimed to be security guards, but were seen killing alleged Israeli collaborators.
Six years later, during the next round of fighting between Israel and Hamas, the militants routinely held news conferences on the hospital grounds and used them as a safe meeting place for Hamas officials to speak with journalists, though these activities do not constitute military use.
After the war, Amnesty International said in a report that Hamas was using abandoned areas of Al Shifa, “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 center.”
Two Norwegian doctors who worked at Al Shifa during the war, Mads Gilbert and Erik Fosse, disputed the reporting, and insisted that there was no Hamas presence at the hospital. Mr. Gilbert, an activist who describes himself as a “political doctor,” was particularly outspoken against Israel and was reportedly banned from Israel and Gaza in 2014.
Matthew Rosenberg reported from London, Ronen Bergman from Tel Aviv, Aaron Boxerman from Jerusalem and Vivian Yee from Cairo. Julian Barnes and Peter Baker contributed reporting from Washington, and Abu Bakr Bashir from London.