It was an open secret among foreign reporters that Hamas used the Gaza Strip’s main hospital as its command center, reported Yedioth Aharonot, Israel’s largest daily newspaper.
The paper, citing numerous foreign reporters, said journalists reporting from Gaza did not tell their audiences of Hamas’ use of the Al-Shifa hospital because they feared retaliation from Hamas. The newspaper further documented the climate of fear that Hamas instilled in Gaza-based reporters.
The day the conflict started last month, WND became the first and, until now, virtually the only news media outlet to report top Hamas leaders used the Al-Shifa hospital as its command center.
Now, a foreign reporter has told Yedioth “it is an open secret that Hamas uses Al-Shifa hospital as its command center,” but “reporters in Gaza would not report that out of fear that it would endanger them.”
Yedioth quoted another journalist, Palestinian reporter Radjaa Abu Dagga, who said Hamas summoned him to answer for some of his reporting, accusing him of working for an Israeli newspaper.
Dagga said the interrogation by Hamas took place at the Al-Shifa hospital. He said Hamas took his passport and threatened him, forcing the removal of an article published in the French newspaper Libération.
Other reporters explained to Yedioth that Hamas’ spokesmen only agreed to be interviewed in the courtyard of Al-Shifa hospital. This was done likely for safety reasons, with the patients serving as human shields. It also created the impression that only civilians were wounded in Israeli attacks, since civilians were streaming into the hospital for treatment.
Indeed, according to the foreign reporters, Hamas imposed a total news media blackout on any reporting of wounded or dead Hamas fighters, once again trying to convey to the world that only civilians were harmed by Israeli strikes.
A Spanish reporter told Yedioth: “We saw the Hamas men. But had we dared point the cameras at them, they would have opened fire at us and killed us.”
WND breaks media blackout
On July 8, the day the Israel Defense Forces launched Operation Protective Edge, WND exclusively reported some Hamas leaders were believed to be hiding in bunkers underneath the Al-Shifa hospital, according to informed Middle Eastern security officials.
The officials said they believe the Hamas members are using the Al-Shifa complex in Gaza not only as a hiding place but as a sanctuary command center for some of the Islamic group’s operations targeting Israel.
The Hamas members believe they are safe underneath the hospital and have built tunnels in recent years to move in and out of the complex, the officials said.
The hospital, located in the North Rimal district of Gaza, is one of the main receiving centers for people wounded in the current Israel Air Force bombardments of Gaza City.
It was Israel in the 1980s that refurbished the hospital as part of an outreach effort to improve relations with Palestinians. Part of the Israeli reconstruction included a large underground cement basement with room for offices.
The facility was originally a British Army barracks in the 1940s before becoming a hospital. It was transformed by Egypt in the 1950s to a larger complex with more medical services.