Israel claims it has evidence of a Hamas military compound beneath a Gaza hospital
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
Israel claims it has evidence of a Hamas military compound beneath a hospital in Gaza City.
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
This comes as Israel's military says it's asking everyone at hospitals in northern Gaza to evacuate in its pursuit of Hamas. These hospitals, though, are in desperate conditions. They've essentially stopped functioning. Staff there say patients, including newborn babies, are dying because of a lack of treatment and that there's no safe way out despite evacuation orders.
FADEL: For the latest, we're joined by NPR's Greg Myre in Tel Aviv. Hi, Greg.
GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Hi, Leila.
FADEL: So what exactly is Israel saying it found underneath this hospital in Gaza City. And have you been able to independently confirm any of it?
MYRE: So Israel is saying it uncovered this Hamas compound underneath the Al-Rantisi Children's Hospital in Gaza City. Israel forced this hospital to evacuate over the weekend, and now it has entered it. Israel's main military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, went to the hospital, and he appears in a video showing a tunnel just outside the hospital and weapons in a room beneath the hospital. Here he is.
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DANIEL HAGARI: Underneath the hospital, in the basement, we found a Hamas command-and-control center, suicide bomb vests, grenades, AK-47 assault rifles, explosive devices, RPGs and other weapons.
MYRE: So, Leila, we can't independently confirm these details. And Hamas is saying they didn't operate there, that this is not real. But Israel says this is why it is evacuating hospitals and that it expects to find more Hamas compounds under other hospitals.
FADEL: Now, some hospitals have been evacuated, but others have not. What are the conditions in the hospitals that still have staff and patients?
MYRE: They're just absolutely desperate. The two largest hospitals in Gaza City, Al-Shifa and Al-Quds, say they've really stopped functioning as hospitals. They don't have electricity. They can't provide any real treatment. They say patients are dying from a lack of care. Al-Shifa Hospital says it has about a hundred decomposing bodies in the courtyard and the morgue. And we're hearing today the hospital is planning a mass grave in the courtyard. Now, Israeli tanks are just outside Al-Shifa and other hospitals in the northern part of Gaza. There are regular firefights with Hamas militants who are also nearby. Israel says it's allowing, even encouraging people to evacuate. But the medical staffs say it's simply too dangerous, and they aren't going to abandon their patients. So it's really just a horrific situation all around.
FADEL: Now, international pressure is mounting on Israel because of these horrific conditions at the hospitals, because hospitals are in the midst of war, facing attacks. Human rights groups, the World Health Organization pointing out that international law requires that health care workers, patients who need care in the midst of war should be protected. Is this impacting Israel's calculation here as it moves forward?
MYRE: Well, outwardly, no. Israel is pressing ahead with this military campaign against Hamas despite this growing calls internationally for a cease-fire. And Israel is even getting pressure from allies. Now, President Biden just said yesterday that hospitals must be protected, and he hopes to see less intrusive action at the hospitals. Meanwhile, many Israelis are demanding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu do more to win the release of some 240 hostages held by Hamas. Talks are ongoing, but there's no clear or imminent deal right now. And there have been large marches outside Netanyahu's office and home. So Netanyahu and the Israeli government are facing pressure from all directions.
FADEL: Now, the stated goal of this war is to eradicate Hamas. It's over a month into this war. What is Israel saying about that goal?
MYRE: Well, Israel's military has been able to go almost anywhere at once to in northern Gaza, but it hasn't defeated or destroyed Hamas as it seeks to do, not by a long shot. So all that suggests that we're looking at an extended conflict, unless there can be some sort of cease-fire negotiated.
FADEL: NPR's Greg Myre in Tel Aviv. Thanks, Greg.
MYRE: Sure thing, Leila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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