Group ruling Gaza says the White House gave Israel a green light ‘to commit more massacres against civilians’.
US President Joe Biden is “wholly responsible” for the Israeli assault on Gaza’s largest hospital, said Hamas, the Palestinian group that rules the enclave.
The accusation came in a statement on Wednesday, a day after the White House said US intelligence sources corroborated Israel’s claims that Hamas has buried an operational centre under the hospital.
“We hold the occupation [Israel] and President Biden wholly responsible for the assault on al-Shifa medical complex,” Hamas said.
“The adoption by the White House and the Pentagon of the occupation’s false claim that the resistance is using al-Shifa medical complex for military ends has given the green light to the occupation to commit more massacres against civilians,” the statement continued.
Israeli forces said on Wednesday morning that they were carrying out a “precise and targeted operation” against a suspected Hamas command centre beneath al-Shifa, where thousands of civilians are sheltering.
Youssef Abul Reesh, an official from the Hamas-run health ministry who is inside the hospital, told the AFP news agency that he could see tanks inside the complex and “dozens of soldiers and commandos inside the emergency and reception buildings”.
After sharp warnings from the United States and others that al-Shifa must be protected, Israel said the raid was being executed based on “an operational necessity”.
Israel has repeatedly claimed that Hamas’s military use of the facility “jeopardises its protected status under international law” – a claim that many international human rights lawyers refute.
Ardi Imseis, an international law expert at Queen’s University in Canada, told Al Jazeera that Israel has a history of presenting questionable and unverifiable evidence to the international community.
Imseis added Israel carries the burden to “produce evidence” and prove its claim that the hospital has been used by Hamas as a base.
“The object of the attack is a civilian object. Until such time that the Israelis provide proof that it has been converted into a military object, the civilian nature of the object does not change,” he said.
According to medical staff, an estimated 650 patients remain in the hospital. A further 5,000-7,000 displaced civilians are trapped inside the hospital grounds and under constant fire from Israeli snipers and drones, according to the health ministry.
Spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra told Al Jazeera Arabic that “there are only doctors, patients and displaced people” inside al-Shifa. “We have nothing to be afraid of or hide.”
The White House expressed concern shortly after the raid began.
“We do not support striking a hospital from the air and we don’t want to see a firefight in a hospital,” a National Security Council spokesperson said.
The official added that there should not be a situation in which “innocent people, helpless people, sick people trying to get medical care they deserve are caught in the crossfire”.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to destroy Hamas in response to its attacks on southern Israel on October 7, which killed an estimated 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and saw 240 captives being taken to Gaza.
Israel’s attacks on Gaza since have so far killed more than 11,300 people.