Israel sought to bolster its case that Hamas uses Gaza’s main hospital as a militant base by releasing video Sunday night of what it says are a tunnel underneath the medical complex, and — for the first time — hostages being taken there by the militant group.
Two of the clips show what Israel says are Hamas militants forcing hostages into the premises of Al-Shifa Hospital on the morning of the Oct. 7 terror attack. NBC News used archive photos to confirm that the first clip does show the reception area of the hospital. Both are time-stamped just before 11 a.m. Oct. 7. although NBC News cannot confirm the accuracy of these timestamps, when the videos were taken or who appears in them.
At a news conference Sunday night, officials also released images of what it said were Hamas fighters taking captured Israeli military vehicles to the hospital on the same day. They also released footage which they said showed an underground tunnel below Al-Shifa.
The film was overlaid with computer graphics labeling the surroundings, and appeared to show the tunnel with reinforced walls, a spiral metal ladder and a blast door. Hamas has denied building tunnels under medical facilities.
The IDF also said that an Israeli soldier, Cpl. Noa Marciano, whose body was found in Gaza last week, was in fact killed by Hamas at Al-Shifa. The militant group had claimed she was killed in an Israeli airstrike.
NBC News has not verified the claims.
The footage is Israel’s latest effort to link Hamas to hospital facilities following international condemnation of Israeli attacks and raids that have killed doctors, patients and civilians who had sought shelter there. The United States has supported its assessment that Hamas uses the hospitals as cover, although doctors at the facility and Hamas have denied it.
The images “prove that the Shifa Hospital was used as terrorist infrastructure,” said a joint statement issued Sunday night by the Israel Defense Force and the Israel Security Agency.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said the videos of hostages being taken to Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital showed that doctors there provide “medical services to everyone who needs them, regardless of their gender and race.”
Hamas dismissed the significance of the video, saying it had openly transferred some of its prisoners to hospitals after they were wounded by Israeli airstrikes.
The militant group, which is banned as a terrorist organization in the United States and Europe, launched the surprise attack Oct. 7 in which Israel says 1,200 people were killed and around 240 others kidnapped. More than 10 weeks of Israeli airstrikes and ground assault following the attack have killed more than 13,000 Palestinians and displaced more than 1.6 million in the Gaza Strip, according to health officials in the besieged enclave.
Israel’s attacks on hospitals have been one of the main contested narratives of the war. The military claims Hamas operated a command center below Al-Shifa Hospital, which both Hamas and hospital staff members have denied. Its attacks on this and other medical facilities, ostensibly to target these militants but in which patients and medical staff have been killed, have been heavily criticized by humanitarian agencies as war crimes.
Israel has conducted a public relations offensive to try to prove its case, although some of its claims have been disputed and only raised further questions of the legitimacy of its tactics.
Nevertheless, the footage released Sunday “is quite damning for Hamas,” in the opinion of Michael A. Horowitz, a Jerusalem-based analyst who is the head of intelligence at Le Beck International, a risk-management consultancy focused on the Middle East.
“Hamas could have gone to any number of hospitals that are closer to the border, if the purpose was just to provide medical support to the hostages — some of whom do not seem seriously injured,” he said. “The fact that they brought them specifically to the Shifa hospital, even if they did so briefly, means they felt very confident no information would leak out.”
In the first video, four people in plainclothes, at least one of whom is armed with what looks like an automatic rifle, pull another person into the hospital, as staff and other bystanders back away in apparent surprise. That video is time-stamped at 10:53 a.m. (3:53 a.m. ET).
In a second clip timestamped less than two minutes later, around a dozen people crowd around an injured person being brought in on a gurney. Four of the group are wearing medical scrubs, and one of them directs the patient, who appears to be bleeding from the arm or stomach, into another unseen room.
In the rest of the group, who are not wearing medical clothing, at least two are carrying what appears to be automatic rifles. Some of the people bear close resemblance to those seen in the first video, and a number of them are in what appears to be heated discussions with the doctors.
A clock on the wall shows the time as just after 4 p.m., although the second hand is not moving, suggesting the clock is broken and this time is not accurate. The IDF and the Israel Security Agency said these images show “hostages abducted from Israeli territory,” one Nepalese and one Thai national, who are “seen surrounded by armed Hamas terrorists,” who are “forcibly transporting” them into the building.
“These findings prove that the Hamas terrorist organization used the Shifa Hospital complex on the day of the massacre as terrorist infrastructure,” it said, and that the videos added to “previous evidence presented regarding Hamas’ use of the hospital area as infrastructure for its terrorist activities in a systematic and ongoing manner.”
The Palestinian Health Ministry in the impoverished and densely populated Gaza Strip, an enclave run by Hamas, said that the videos released by Israel merely showed doctors treating patients regardless of who they are.
“If what was stated in the video was accurate, this means that the hospital provided the required service through the best portal, which is intensive care,” it said in a statement. It added that Israel “bears full responsibility for the deterioration and collapse of health services” in Gaza, “which leads to hundreds of wounded and sick people dying, who could have been treated and their lives being saved.”
Izzat Al-Rishq, a member of Hamas’ political wing, said on the messaging app Telegram that his group has always said that it “transferred many of the occupation’s prisoners to hospitals to receive treatment,” especially “after some of them were injured as a result of the occupation’s aircraft bombing them.”
Israel did say that it started bombing Gaza on the morning of Oct. 7 but it’s not clear if this happened early enough to explain the injuries of the people seen in the video.