Israel’s military on Sunday released video of what it said was a 55-meter section of a fortified tunnel running 10 meters beneath the Shifa Hospital complex in Gaza City, seeking to bolster its allegations that Hamas has used the largest medical center in the Palestinian enclave as a base for its military operations.
The military released two videos, one of which appeared to have been filmed by a drone and shows parts of a metal spiral staircase. A longer video, which appeared to have been recorded by a robot or a camera carried by an animal, starts out above ground and shows the descent to a cloister-like tunnel with utility cables along one wall that leads to what Israeli officials described as a blastproof door.
The door had a firing hole in it, the military said, adding that such doors are used by Hamas “to block Israeli forces from entering the command centers and the underground assets belonging to Hamas.”
The New York Times verified that both videos were recorded at Al-Shifa Hospital, which Israeli forces stormed last week.
Hamas has denied Israeli accusations that it uses civilian infrastructure, including residential buildings, mosques and hospitals, to hide its military fortifications and command centers. The group says Israel is committing war crimes by targeting civilian centers.
The Israeli military also released videos later Sunday that it said showed two hostages being taken inside the hospital on Oct. 7, when Hamas launched a cross-border attack from Gaza. They provide further evidence, Israeli officials said, that Hamas has used the hospital area for military operations.
Israeli officials said that the second set of videos — which appeared to be from cameras mounted inside the hospital — were recorded hours after the Hamas raid into Israel and that they showed two hostages, one Thai and one Nepali, being escorted by armed fighters. The officials said they had no idea where the two hostages are now.
The Times verified the location of the footage as Al-Shifa, but not the identities of those shown or the time stamps .
Gaza’s Health Ministry said in a statement that the authenticity of the videos could not be verified, and took the opportunity to renew its criticism of Israel over a blockade that has led to a collapse of health services in the enclave to the deaths of hundreds of sick and injured.
“Given what the Israeli occupation reported, this confirms that the hospitals of the Ministry of Health provide their medical services to everyone who deserves them, regardless of their gender and race,” the ministry said.
The videos were released on the fifth day of the military’s operation inside the Shifa Hospital compound.
Earlier, on Friday, the Israeli military escorted journalists from The New York Times through a landscape of wartime destruction to a stone-and-concrete shaft on the grounds of Al-Shifa, close to a perimeter wall. It was the same shaft that appeared in the videos released on Sunday.
The military said it was still working with the Shin Bet security agency to uncover the rest of the tunnel, but it said the findings so far were evidence of “the cynical manner” in which Hamas uses the residents of Gaza as human shields. That assertion is central to Israel’s defense of the heavy death toll caused by its military campaign in Gaza.
More than 12,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to health officials in the Hamas-run enclave. Israel bombarded Gaza with airstrikes and subsequently launched a ground invasion of the territory in response the surprise Hamas attack on southern Israel in which about 1,200 people were killed and about 240 people were abducted and taken into Gaza.
The vast majority of those killed or taken hostage are civilians.
The Israeli military has also displayed some weaponry it says it found in various parts of the Shifa compound, as well as a white Toyota pickup truck of the type used by many Hamas commandos who breached the border with Israel on Oct. 7.
But proof of an extensive Hamas command center under the hospital has yet to be revealed. The military says it has to move slowly and cautiously, lest the tunnels be booby-trapped. It said it was seeking ways to expose and destroy them without bringing down the hospital, where some 300 patients and medical staff remain in dire conditions.
Aric Toler contributed reporting.