July 14, 2024

The United States has intelligence that shows that Hamas has been using hospitals in Gaza, including Al-Shifa, as command centers and ammunitions depots, a spokesman for the National Security Council said on Tuesday.

John Kirby, the spokesman, said that the intelligence, gathered from American-generated sources, supported Israel’s allegation that Hamas has been operating out of hospitals, which Mr. Kirby said amounted to a war crime.

Mr. Kirby declined to provide details about the U.S. intelligence, but he made clear that it goes beyond the information collected by the Israeli intelligence service. “It comes from a variety of intelligence methods — of our own, of our own,” he said, adding that the classification of the intelligence had been downgraded so that it could be shared publicly.

“I can confirm for you that we have information that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad use some hospitals in the Gaza Strip, including Al-Shifa, and tunnels underneath them, to conceal and to support their military operations and to hold hostages,” Mr. Kirby told reporters on Air Force One as President Biden headed to San Francisco for a summit with Asia-Pacific leaders.

“Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad — J.I.D. — members operate a command and control node from Al-Shifa in Gaza City,” he added. “They have stored weapons there, and they’re prepared to respond to an Israeli military operation against that facility.”

The revelation of the U.S. intelligence comes as Israel is under harsh international criticism for attacks on and around hospitals as it conducts a war against Hamas in the wake of the armed group’s terrorist attacks on Israel on Oct. 7. Israel says more than 1,200 people were killed in the attacks and that 239 others remain hostages.

During Israel’s ensuing military campaign to eradicate Hamas, it has repeatedly said that its military seeks to avoid casualties among civilians, including patients and doctors at hospitals. But they have insisted that Hamas uses such people as human shields.

Mr. Kirby said that the United States does not support attacks from the air on hospitals, despite what he said was the confirmed use of the facilities by Hamas.

“We do not support striking a hospital from the air,” he said. “And we do not want to see a firefight in a hospital where innocent people, helpless people, sick people are simply trying to get the medical care that they deserve, not to be caught in a crossfire. Hospitals and patients must be protected.”

He called that concern an “added burden” for Israel in its military campaign against Hamas.

Palestinian officials and doctors at Al-Shifa have denied that the hospital has been used by Hamas. But Mr. Kirby said that the newly revealed U.S. intelligence supported Israel’s arguments as its military closed in on the hospital.

“We have information that confirms that Hamas is using that particular hospital for a command and control node and probably storage of equipment weapons up underneath,” he said. “That is a war crime.”