Israel 'finds Hamas base' under Gaza hospital and says hostages taken there on October 7, as 'release deal close'

19 November 2023, 18:11 | Updated: 19 November 2023, 23:19

Israel claims to have found a Hamas base under the al-Shifa hospital, and says hostages were taken there on October 7
Israel claims to have found a Hamas base under the al-Shifa hospital, and says hostages were taken there on October 7. Picture: IDF/Getty

By Kit Heren

Israel claims to have found a Hamas base underneath the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza, despite the terror group denying it exists.

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The IDF released images on Sunday of a tunnel that they claim leads to a Hamas command centre under the hospital, which is the largest in Gaza.

The Israeli armed forces have been occupying the hospital for several days in a bid to uncover a suspected Hamas base underneath. Hundreds of people have been forced to leave the site, including 31 premature babies.

Releasing images of "55m-long terror tunnel, 10m deep underneath the Shifa hospital", a spokesperson said: "This type of door is used by the Hamas terrorist organisation to block Israeli forces from entering the command centres and the underground assets belonging to Hamas."

They added that troops "are continuing to uncover the route of the tunnel".

The IDF also said that they had found a Hamas command centre under the hospital, and are now trying to show how the tunnel and the centre are linked.

Israel also released footage that they said showed Hamas taking wounded hostages into the hospital on October 7. They said that this proved that Hamas was using the hospital for terror activities.

The IDF has been trying to provide evidence that the hospital was a key centre for the terror group.

Hamas and doctors at the hospital have denied that the terror group has a base there. The images released by the IDF have not been independently verified.

Israel has struck the hospital, having claimed Hamas used it as a way of trying to harbour itself in the hope a hospital would give them cover.

But some in the media who had access to it remain unconvinced based on evidence provided by the IDF.

The World Health Organisation has described the hospital as having become a "death zone".

One of the premature babies that medical staff were trying to evacuate from the hospital died on Saturday night, a spokesperson for the WHO told LBC on Sunday.

Christian Lindmeier told Paul Brand: "One has unfortunately died overnight. Because they're really in such a dire situation. And in such dire circumstances that they have not had real help and functioning medical equipment and incubators".

He added: "But the good news [is that] 31 really sick babies have been saved, and were evacuated together with a handful of health workers and of course, some family members.

It comes as Qatar said that Israel and Hamas are close to a deal to free a number of the 240 people held by the terrorists in Gaza.

They were kidnapped in the October 7 massacre, when more than 1,000 Israelis were killed.

A deal - which was partially thrashed out with American involvement - would see Israel call a temporary ceasefire in its invasion of the territory, where it is besieging Gaza city in a bid to destroy Hamas's ability to harm its people.

Qatar's prime minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said: "The challenges that remain in the negotiations are very minor compared to the bigger challenges.

"They are more logistical, they are more practical."

Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there is no agreement yet and has denied calls for a complete ceasefire.

Read more: Hundreds leave Gaza hospital amid Israeli invasion as dozens feared dead at UN shelter

Israel wants the return of the roughly 240 hostages
Israel wants the return of the roughly 240 hostages. Picture: Alamy

But a temporary halt to the fighting in exchange for some of those being held does appear to be on the cards.

Reports suggest a five-day halt could lead to dozens of women and children being let out.

Read more: Palestine supporters arrested at Waterloo 'sit in' amid dozens of marches, as demonstrators also target Starmer's office

Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the US National Security Council, said: "We have not reached a deal yet, but we continue to work hard to get to a deal."

Netanyahu said there was a lot of "incorrect" reporting about "imminent agreements" that would see either some or all of the hostages.

"As of now, there is no deal," he said in a briefing on Saturday.

Israel has battered Gaza with airstrikes amid its ground invasion
Israel has battered Gaza with airstrikes amid its ground invasion. Picture: Alamy

So far, Qatar has managed to free two elderly Israeli women and a mother and daughter who are US nationals.

Hamas has based its political leadership in the Gulf state.

The have been calls by protesters and some international politicians for Israel to bring a complete halt to the fighting, as Hamas's health ministry claims more than 12,000 people have been killed in the invasion.

But supporters of Israel's action say only Hamas would benefit from that.

Palestine supporters have been marching in London every Saturday for weeks. This Saturday saw over 100 smaller marches take place, rather than the concentrated larger marches of previous weeks.

Ten people were arrested on Saturday, including five who were part of a 'sit-in' at Waterloo Station.

Other demonstrations included a march to Sir Keir Starmer's constituency office in north London.

Labour shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves said on Sunday that the march amounted to "intimidation" as she called for civility in the protests.

Police are hunting 15 people who took part in the convoy
Police are hunting 15 people who took part in the convoy. Picture: Met Police

Police are also hunting for 15 people who took part in a driving convoy of cars with Palestinian flags that went through east London on Saturday night, stopping traffic.

Police stopped them in south Kensington, west London. The cars had earlier stopped twice on the A13 and in the Limehouse Link Tunnel.

Commander Karen Findlay, who led this weekend’s policing operation, said: “On some previous occasions, convoys of cars have passed through Jewish communities with occupants waving flags and shouting anti-Semitic abuse. They understandably caused significant concern, fear and upset.

“As soon as the convoy was spotted, a plan was put in place quickly to ensure the convoy would not reach areas where its presence would inevitably cause alarm and intimidation.

“Our enquiries have not only revealed the extent of their dangerous antics on major roads, they’ve also established the group had plans to move on from Exhibition Road to the Israeli Embassy off Kensington High Street.

“Our intervention on Saturday night was effective in stopping this convoy in its tracks, but now we need to identify those we suspect of being involved in offences earlier on their route.

“The public have been a great help in recent weeks when similar appeals have been made and I have no doubt they’ll continue to do the same.”

Anyone who can assist with identifying those in the images shared today should call 101, providing the reference 4237915/23 and the unique number in the bottom corner of the images being released.

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