Summary ... Hamas and the other terrorist organizations have frequently made use of hospitals and other medical facilities in Gaza for various military purposes. That is because they know the IDF does not attack medical facilities, and using a medical facility provides their terrorist operatives located there with a kind of immunity.
Hamas and the other terrorist organizations have frequently made use of hospitals and other medical facilities for various military purposes. That is because they know the IDF [Israel Defense Force] does not attack medical facilities, and using a medical facility provides their terrorist operatives located there with a kind of immunity. For the same reason they use ambulances to move terrorist operatives and weapons from place to place in combat zones. They repeat the modus operandi in Operation Protective Edge.
William Booth wrote in the Washington Post on July 15, 2014, that "At the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, crowds gathered to throw shoes and eggs at the Palestinian Authority's health minister, who represents the crumbling "unity government" in the West Bank [sic] city of Ram'Allah. The minister was turned away before he reached the hospital, which has become a de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders, who can be seen in the hallways and offices" (ITIC emphasis). Washington Post correspondent Nick Casey Tweeted that Hamas used the Al-Shifa'a Hospital as a "safe place" to meet with the media.
Al-Shifa'a Hospital, located in the western part of Gaza City, is the largest and most important hospital in the Gaza Strip. Hamas used it for military-terrorist purposes in Operation Cast Lead as well, when senior Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operatives located themselves at the hospital, closing off some of the wings (see below).
Using ambulances for military-terrorist purposes, as exposed in Operation Protective Edge, is well known from the past. Before and during Operation Cast Lead Hamas used them frequently (see below).
In addition, according to the IDF Spokesman, during the ground operation an IDF force identified two Palestinian [sic] terrorist operatives using ambulances to move through the Gaza Strip (IDF Spokesman, July 22, 2014). They were seen getting into the ambulance and driving away; the driver was apparently wearing a white coat. The IDF did not attack the ambulance out of concern for possible civilian passengers.
Hamas did not make military-terrorist use of Al-Shifa'a Hospital during Operation Protective Edge for the first time. It also used the hospital during Operation Cast Lead, attested to by large amounts of evident collected at the time by Israeli intelligence and an IDF debriefing. For example:
The following are open source publications from Fatah and the Palestinian Authority [PA/PLO] about the military use of the Shifa'a hospital:
For military-terrorist use of other hospitals in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead, see the Appendix.
The use of ambulances for military-terrorist purposes as exposed by the IDF during Operation Protective Edge is a well-known modus operandi. Before and during Operation Cast Lead Hamas used consistently and methodically used vehicles with the markings of medical organizations for military purposes.
According to Hamas' combat modus operandi, ambulances and vehicles belonging to international organizations are used to move military operatives between the various battle zones and to transport rockets and other weapons. Such vehicles are used during the fighting to evade examination and exploit the freedom of movement given them by the IDF. The same method was also used by Hamas before Operation Cast Lead, and is currently being used during Operation Protective Edge.
An IDF debriefing (carried out by a colonel and reported on April 6, 2009) showed that Hamas made military use of ambulances, some of them belonging to the civil defense apparatuses of Hamas' internal security service. In addition, Hamas ordered vehicles painted as ambulances. According to the debriefing, the ambulances were used for the following purposes:
Other findings of the IDF's debriefing (also based on intelligence information) were:
An IDF brigadier general testified during the IDF debriefing that in Operation Cast Lead there were at least three incidents where ambulances were identified as carrying armed Hamas operatives along with ambulance rescue teams.
On January 26, 2009, the Australian Sydney Morning Herald (referred to in the Goldstone Report ) published an article by Jason Koutsoukis, who interviewed Muhammad Shriteh, a Gazan ambulance driver who evacuated the wounded during Operation Cast Lead. He said that during most of Operation Cast Lead he would "coordinate with the Israelis before we pick up patients ... so they would not shoot at us." He said that the more immediate threat was from Hamas, who would "lure the ambulances into the heart of a battle to transport fighters to safety" (ITIC emphasis).
The ambulance driver described an incident which occurred during the second week of Operation Cast Lead, in which the ambulance had been urgently called to a house in Jabaliya. When he entered the house, which had been partially destroyed, he saw three Hamas operatives hiding inside. The operatives, who were scared and nervous, told him to get them out of the house, put them into the ambulance and drive them away. He said he refused, because he knew that if the IDF found him evacuating fighters and not wounded Palestinians they would kill him. One of the operatives threatened to shoot him but he still refused. In the end, they let him drive away without them.
Muhammad Shriteh added that on a number of occasions during Operation Cast Lead Hamas operatives tried to take over ambulances belonging to Al-Quds Hospital [located in Tel al-Hawa in Gaza City]. Hospital employees usually received warnings beforehand and removed all the ambulances from the hospital grounds to make it seem as though they were in use, returning them only after the Hamas operatives had left.
The following are examples of ambulances used to evacuate military operatives and transport weapons:
Ambulances were also used to smuggle senior Hamas figures out of the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead. Riding in ambulances, a delegation of Hamas leaders left for talks with the head of Egyptian general intelligence, Omar Suleiman. Two of them, Jamal Abu Hashem and Ayman Taha, left the Gaza Strip for Egypt hiding in an ambulance to ensure they would not be attacked by the IDF (Egyptian TV quoting a source in the Hamas police, January 9, 2009). Eye witnesses said that they saw other senior Hamas figures in another ambulance (ibid.).
Mahmoud Abbas mentioned the issue in a speech he gave at the American Arab University in Jenin. He attacked Hamas and criticized the leaders of the organization who had used ambulances to flee to Sinai during Operation Cast Lead (Palestinian TV, October 17, 2009).
There is also a great deal of intelligence information about the military use of the children's hospital in Nasr in Gaza City:
The Shaheed Kamal Adwan Hospital is located in the northern Gaza Strip in the Beit Lahia area, near Jabaliya. According to intelligence, Hamas used it in the following ways:
Further intelligence information regarding Hamas' military use of medical facilities during Operation Cast Lead:
The following is open source information about the military use of hospitals and medical centers during Operation Cast Lead:
[ Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) | Published: July 25, 2014 ]
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