Much of the current attention in the ongoing Israeli war against Hamas in Gaza is focused on Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. The ground fighting around the hospital has been intense, with many casualties. But the focus of the international news media, such as in this article from the Associated Press, has been on the hospital itself and the disruptions being caused by the military action. The AP asks, “Hospitals have special protection under the rules of war. Why are they in the crosshairs in Gaza?” Of course, the premise of the question is false, but it allows the press to once again paint the IDF as the bad guys who are driving up “civilian casualties” at unacceptable rates.
The head of surgery at Gaza’s largest and most advanced hospital held up his phone Saturday to the hammering of gunfire and artillery shelling. “Listen,” said Dr. Marwan Abu Sada as fighting raged around Shifa Hospital.
Shells hissed through the hospital courtyard and crashed into wards while Israeli soldiers and Hamas militants locked in close quarters combat. Doctors tried to help patients even as they ran for cover.
Abu Sada described Shifa as a deathtrap for thousands of war-wounded, medical staff and displaced civilians sheltering there. The Israeli military denied it launched direct strikes or placed Shifa under siege.
On the odd but unlikely chance that the AP or anyone else in the liberal media is really interested in an answer to their question, I would like to offer an explanation. They, along with everyone in the Gaza Strip, should be encouraged to sit down and watch an ancient episode from season 2 of M*A*S*H called 5 O’Clock Charlie. In it, the American Army moves an ammunition dump to a location across the camp from the MASH unit. Soon, a rather pathetic North Korean bomber pilot in a sputtering plane begins showing up reliably at 5 pm every day and attempts to drop a shell on the ammo dump, inevitably missing. This causes great distress among the medical staff and the patients. They struggle with the situation until they finally realize the solution. They convince the Army to move the dump elsewhere and then the bomber stops showing up.
Is that ringing a bell for anyone? The IDF is fighting around (and sometimes in) Shifa Hospital because that’s where Hamas is. They put their fighters in and around hospitals and it’s already been confirmed that there are Hamas tunnels under this hospital. They base their operations there in the hope that Israel will avoid striking them. If the plan works, their fighters live and they can keep funneling supplies through the tunnels. If Israel attacks, civilians inevitably are injured or killed and Hamas is rewarded with headlines blaming Israel. And that’s precisely what we’re seeing now.
The AP raised what it describes as an “urgent” question. When do medical facilities lose special protection under international humanitarian law? They point out that Israel has provided maps showing that Hamas has a significantly large headquarters set up under Shifa Hospital, but they also keep saying Israel has “provided no evidence” of that. I’m pretty sure the IDF’s maps are quite accurate at this point and they know where most of the tunnels are. They also fail to address the fundamental question staring them in the face. If Hamas isn’t operating around the hospital, who are all of the people shooting back at the IDF?
Israel has kept the path to the east side of the hospital open for people to evacuate and for fresh medical supplies to arrive. They’re clearly doing all they can to minimize the loss of noncombatant lives. It was Hamas that built the tunnels and the headquarters under the hospital. Then they started a war with Israel on October 7th. In war, you fight where the enemy is. In this case, the enemy is under the hospital. If you want to blame someone for civilian casualties in and around Shifa Hospital, take your complaints to Hamas. This was their strategy.