Israel says Hamas tunnel found at Al Shifa; phone blackout halts aid

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Gaza/Jerusalem: The Israeli army says soldiers have found a tunnel shaft used by Hamas militants at Gaza’s biggest hospital, Al Shifa.

It released a video it said showed a tunnel entrance in an outdoor area of the hospital.

The video, which Reuters could not immediately verify, showed a deep hole in the ground, littered with and surrounded by concrete and wood, rubble and sand. It appeared the area had been excavated; a bulldozer appeared in the background.

Weapons and other equipment that Israel’s army says it found at Al Shifa Hospital complex in the Gaza Strip.Credit: IDF

The army said its troops also found a vehicle in the hospital containing numerous weapons.

Military equipment including Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-propelled grenades were also found in the building, it said.

Hamas said in a statement that claims by the US State and Defence departments that the group uses Al Shifa for military purposes “is a repetition of a blatantly false narrative, demonstrated by the weak and ridiculous performances of the occupation army spokesman”.

A still from bodycam footage inside a tunnel in an undisclosed location released by the Israeli Defence Forces on November 8.Credit: AP

The US was confident in an assessment from its own intelligence agencies on Hamas activities in Al Shifa hospital and would neither share nor elaborate, White House spokesperson John Kirby said.

Human Rights Watch said hospitals have special protections under international humanitarian law.

“Hospitals only lose those protections if it can be shown that harmful acts have been carried out from the premises,” the watchdog’s UN Director Louis Charbonneau said.

Meanwhile, internet and telephone services have collapsed across the Gaza Strip for lack of fuel, bringing a potentially long-term blackout of communications at the same time as Israel signalled its offensive against Hamas could next target the south, where most of the population has taken refuge.

The two telecoms companies in Gaza said all energy sources supplying the network had run out and therefore all services in the territory were down. Israel refuses fuel imports, saying Hamas could use them for military purposes.

An International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) convoy of trucks carrying medical aid arrives at the Al Shifa medical hospital in Gaza City on November 7. Aid agencies say that without fuel they cannot coordinate further deliveries.Credit: Bloomberg

With communications out and without fuel, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said it was impossible to coordinate humanitarian aid truck convoys.

“If the fuel does not come in, people will start to die because of the lack of fuel. Exactly as from when, I don’t know. But it will be sooner rather than later,” said UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini.

As of late Thursday night (Friday morning AEDT), there was no further word from the companies, Paltel and Jawwal, whose internet, mobile phone and landline networks remained inoperable.

Palestinian civilians have borne the brunt of Israel’s weeks-long military campaign in retaliation for the October 7 attack by Hamas that Israel says killed 1200 people, mostly civilians. Hamas took some 240 hostages.

Gaza health authorities deemed reliable by the United Nations say at least 11,500 people have been confirmed killed in an Israeli bombardment and ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, more than 4700 of them children.

The Israeli military’s chief of staff said Israel was close to destroying Hamas’ military system in northern Gaza and there were signs the army was taking its campaign to other parts of the enclave of 2.3 million people.

Israel distributed pamphlets telling civilians to leave four towns in southern Gaza, areas people had been previously told would be safe.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, on his first visit to Israel since the attack, called on Israel to do more to protect civilians in Gaza.

“I understand your rage but let me ask you not to be consumed by rage,” Borrell said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said Hamas was to blame not only for the October 7 attack but also for the current plight of Palestinians in Gaza.


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