Israel: 55-Meter Fortified Tunnel Found Under Shifa Hospital


Israel published video Sunday of what it described as a tunnel dug by Palestinian militants under the Gaza Strip’s Shifa Hospital, a focus of its search-and-destroy missions against Hamas militants.

While acknowledging that it has a network of hundreds of kilometers of secret tunnels, bunkers and access shafts throughout the Palestinian enclave, Hamas has denied that these are in civilian infrastructure like hospitals.

In Sunday’s update on operations at Shifa, the Israeli military said its engineers uncovered a tunnel 10 meters deep and running 55 meters to a blast-proof door.

“This type of door is used by the Hamas terrorist organization to block Israeli forces from entering the command centers and the underground assets belonging to Hamas,” said a military statement accompanied by video showing a narrow passage with arched concrete roofing, ending at a grey door.

At least 31 very sick, premature babies have been evacuated from Shifa Hospital and will be transported to a hospital in Egypt, the World Health Organization said Sunday.

Meanwhile, two Palestinians were killed overnight in Israeli raids on the occupied West Bank.

On the diplomatic front, Michael Herzog, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., told ABC’s “This Week” show that Israel is “hopeful we can get a significant number of hostages [held by Hamas] freed in the next few days,” with an accompanying short pause in the fighting, possibly lasting five days.

U.S. news reports say about 50 hostages, particularly women and children, of the estimated 240 held by Hamas could be returned to Israel, but it is unclear whether and how many Palestinian prisoners held by Israel might be released.

Herzog refused to call any cessation in fighting a cease-fire, signaling that Israel plans to resume its attack on Hamas targets after the pause ends.

White House deputy national security adviser Jon Finer told CNN’s “State of the Union” show that the U.S. believes it is “closer than we have been perhaps at any point since these negotiations [over the hostage release] began weeks ago.” He said, “There are areas of difference and disagreement that have been narrowed, if not closed out entirely,” while adding that no deal has been reached.

“One of the challenges associated with this is we’re not on the ground in Gaza, the United States,” Finer said. “We are not in direct contact with Hamas. We do that only through intermediaries. And so, we don’t have perfect fidelity about exact numbers of hostages, including numbers who are still alive.”

Dozens of displaced Palestinian civilians were killed or wounded Saturday in Israeli airstrikes, including one on a school in the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees reported.

“The scenes were horrifying. Corpses of women and children were on the ground. Others were screaming for help,” wounded survivor Ahmed Radwan told The Associated Press by phone of Israel’s attack on the camp’s Fakhoura school. Photos from a local hospital showed more than 20 bodies wrapped in bloodstained sheets.

In a statement Sunday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “I am deeply shocked that two UNRWA schools were struck in less than 24 hours in Gaza.”

“This war is having a staggering and unacceptable number of civilian casualties, including women and children, every day. This must stop. I reiterate my call for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire.”

The Israeli military said that its troops were active in the Jabaliya area “with the aim of hitting terrorists” while trying to minimize civilian harm.

On Saturday, the military warned civilians in parts of southern Gaza to leave. On Friday, Israel had issued new warnings for Palestinians in the southern city of Khan Younis to relocate from areas of the Gaza Strip where Israeli officials earlier had told people it was safe.

“We’re asking people to relocate,” Mark Regev, an aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told MSNBC. “I know it’s not easy for many of them, but we don’t want to see civilians caught up in the crossfire.”

Palestinian authorities now say more than 13,000 people have been killed in Gaza, and 30,000 injured since Israel launched a major air and ground offensive in response to the October 7 Hamas terror attack that killed more than 1,200 people in southern Israel. Hamas has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., Britain, the European Union and others.

Israel said 57 of its soldiers had been killed in Gaza since it entered the territory.

On Saturday, Israeli airstrikes killed at least 47 people in Khan Younis and the vicinity, medics said.

One airstrike hit two apartment buildings in Khan Younis, killing 26 Palestinians and wounding 23, health officials said. Six more were killed a few kilometers north when a house in the town of Deir Al-Balah was bombed, health officials said.

Internet and phone service was restored to the Gaza Strip on Saturday, ending a telecommunications outage that had forced the United Nations to shut down critical aid deliveries.

VOA United Nations correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this report. 


The VOA is the Voice of America

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