To people in Gaza, Al Shifa is the biggest and most advanced hospital around — a lifeline, in normal times, and now a place of refuge from relentless Israeli airstrikes.
More than 60,000 people are sheltering there. But to the Israeli military, it is a threat, and, perhaps, a target.
On Friday, hours before the Israeli military stepped up its bombardment of Gaza in retaliation for Hamas’s mass killings of Israelis three weeks ago, it held a news conference in which it said that Al Shifa conceals underground command centers for Hamas — raising fears that the military was laying the groundwork for attacking the hospital.
Hamas “does its command and control in different departments of the hospital,” said Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief spokesman for the Israeli military, speaking in English and citing intelligence sources that he did not release. He displayed an illustrated map of the hospital marking what he said were several underground Hamas installations in the complex.
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