'Haniyeh hid in hospital during Gaza op'
IDF probes discover that Hamas PM and senior operatives took over ward, set up command center.
Photo: AP [file]
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh operated a command and control center inside Shifa Hospital in downtown Gaza City throughout Operation Cast Lead in January, the IDF revealed on Wednesday.
IDF probes opened following the offensive discovered that Haniyeh and other senior Hamas commanders took over a ward of the hospital, the Gaza Strip's largest, and set up a command center for the duration of the campaign.
Hamas believed that Israel would not target the hospital due to the high risk of collateral damage.
Guards were posted at the entrance to the ward and field commanders took advantage of the humanitarian corridor and cessation of action that the IDF instituted every day for several hours, to enter the hospital and meet with senior Hamas officials to receive instructions.
Senior Hamas commanders also set up a command center in a Red Crescent Society clinic in Khan Yunis and used it as a detention center.
An IDF investigation, conducted by Col. Erez Katz, focused on the targeting of health facilities, vehicles and medical teams. The probe discovered that out of seven medical personnel claimed to have been killed by the IDF, five were Hamas operatives, including a nephew of the Hamas health minister. Two were civilians.
The probe also uncovered a number of cases during which Hamas used ambulances to transport operatives. Testimony by a Gazan medical worker and obtained by the IDF revealed how Hamas forced the Red Crescent to hand over medic and nurse uniforms for its operatives.
During the probe, the army also looked into a complaint filed by the United Nations that the air force had bombed an UNRWA vehicle in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood in southern Gaza City. The probe revealed that the vehicle was bombed since it did not have markings and was driving at night in an area off limits to civilian vehicles.
Furthermore, the UN vehicle was used to transport a Palestinian anti-tank squad and was bombed after it unloaded the squad. The driver was wounded; he was later identified as the former driver of Hamas co-founder Ahmed Yassin, who was killed by Israel in 2004.