IDF's spy Unit 504 was critical in unmasking Hamas’s abuse of hospitals

Unit returns to southern Israel after decade-long hiatus; Has interrogated over 500 terrorists and sent out over 10 million evacuation messages.

Interrogation of a Hamas terrorist, dated to November 12 (IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

IDF Unit 504, the military’s human spying version of the Mossad, has been vital in unmasking Hamas’s abuse of hospitals for a variety of terrorist and military purposes, The Jerusalem Post can now disclose.

This information was previously provided to a closed group of military reporters, but it had been kept censored due to operational considerations.

In a recording released by the IDF of a Unit 504 interrogation, a Palestinian who had been in Shifa Hospital said there were many Hamas forces there, and their presence upset the medical staff.

Interrogation of a Hamas terrorist, dated to November 12 (IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

The interrogated Palestinian estimated that he had seen 80 to 100 terrorists there. That was likely only a portion of the Hamas presence there, taking into account that Shifa is a large complex with many facilities.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists were “camouflaged” in the dress of various kinds of medical helpers, and they even went as far as to use the emergency room for their activities, the interrogated Palestinian said.

 Infographic from the IDF detailing the efforts made by Unit 504 in warning Gaza's population to evacuate, November 20, 2023 (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Infographic from the IDF detailing the efforts made by Unit 504 in warning Gaza's population to evacuate, November 20, 2023 (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

Another Palestinian, Hamdoah Riad Assad Samlah, described how Hamas terrorists were using 50,000 Palestinian civilians at the large Palestine Red Crescent Society building in Gaza as human shields.

No one would resist the Hamas forces, or they might be killed, he said.

Hamas had wrapped their rockets in civilian blankets to hide them from the IDF, and they frequently fired them from the nearby surroundings of the building, he added.

Another Palestinian told Unit 504 he had seen more than 100 Hamas terrorists controlling Rantisi Hospital in Gaza, split up into tents of about five to six terrorists per tent.

He said he was also in a hospital known as the Sweden Hospital, where he saw at least seven Hamas terrorists. Although they were in civilian garb, he said he knew one of them personally, and the rest were armed.

An additional disclosure is that Unit 504 has reestablished a new physical center and unit to handle Gaza issues and security issues on Israel’s southern border, after a hiatus dating back more than a decade.

This has been possible since Unit 504 has doubled its size since the Israel-Gaza war started on October 7, including with some of the most highly trained reservists in the IDF.

Until the outbreak of the war, Unit 504 was focused more on Lebanon, Syria, and other Middle Eastern countries.For example, Unit 504’s involvement in arranging medical and infrastructure assistance for Syrian militias on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights during the Syrian civil war of the 2010s has been previously reported by the Post and others.

In addition, the IDF said Unit 504 has interrogated more than 500 terrorists since October 7 and arrested and questioned at least 300 terrorists since the start of the Gaza counterinvasion.

Over 300 Hamas terrorists captured and taken to Israel

Unit 504 has helped flag some 300 terrorist sites for IDF operations, with more than 100 of them having later been attacked by various Israeli forces, the IDF said in a statement.

“Until now, we have arrested more than 300 terrorists, as part of the invasion, who were taken for extended questioning to Israel,” a senior Unit 504 commander was quoted as saying. “The information that came out of questioning such prisoners has had tremendous value, led to eliminating other terrorists, and to enhancing the security of our forces.”

The senior officer said his unit had also received thousands of calls from Palestinians in Gaza who wanted to help them with intelligence or otherwise cooperate against Hamas, “an order of magnitude that we had never seen before. It seems that the residents of Gaza are unhappy with the barbaric conduct of Hamas.”

To accomplish these many missions, dozens of Arabic-speaking field interrogators are spread throughout the battle areas in Gaza at the division, brigade, and battalion levels, the IDF said.

Hamas terrorist interrogated by Israeli security forces describes Hamas's use of hospitals to cover its terror activities (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

Unit 504’s field interrogation personnel are not just bringing back terrorists to Israel for questioning; they are also questioning terrorists in the field in real time to assist IDF forces with their immediate battle maneuvers and to find Hamas’s sensitive locations on nearby Gaza streets.

Besides these interrogated detainees giving Unit 504 questioners information about sensitive terrorist locations in general, they have also been especially helpful in locating Hamas’s tunnel network, the method of operation of the enemy, and detecting how and when Hamas has tried to fade into civilian locations or into the civilian population, the IDF said.

Another way Unit 504 helps the invading ground forces is by collecting critical surveillance on the wider front they are about to face.

In addition, Unit 504’s technological team developed a 360-degree, virtual-reality device to help soldiers see and feel what it is like in battle areas of Gaza at street level. The VR program is based on real videos taken by spies in Gaza who are working on behalf of Unit 504.

The mix of real-time intelligence with operational knowledge has led to a huge number of successful targeting operations as well as smarter maneuvering in the face of potential enemy ambushes, the IDF said.

Unit 504 has also taken a lead role in convincing the vast majority of Palestinians in northern Gaza to evacuate.This has been done by a mix of more than 10 million electronic messages, nine million recorded messages, and some 30,000 telephone calls from officers trained in Arabic and in connecting culturally with Palestinians. Various psychological and social-media campaigns also have been utilized. Additionally, about four million flyers were dropped on Palestinian population centers to encourage civilians to flee to the south.

In one case, the IDF learned from Palestinian civilians about a Hamas outpost that was blocking them from evacuating. That information was used to remove the Hamas forces who were interfering, the IDF said.