A British doctor who used to work at Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital has revealed there were ‘no-go areas’ in the building where he ‘would be shot’ if he went.
The building has long been claimed by Israel to be a hiding place for terror group Hamas, with a command-and-control centre reportedly under the structure in a series of tunnels.
On Sunday, the Israel Defence Force said it had found a 55m long tunnel at the hospital, where four days ago it also recovered the body of two hostages kidnapped last month.
Hamas has denied that the hospital is used as a base but the doctor, who asked to remain anonymous, told France 24 he had worked there for three months in 2021.
He said: ’When I was first asked to work there [at Shifa], I was told there was a part of the hospital I was not to go near, and if I did, I’d be in danger of being shot.’
When asked if it was explained why, the man, speaking with a Home Counties accent, said: ’No, but implicit was that it was being used for non-medical purposes.’
He added: ’I stayed away, but I saw a few dodgy-looking non-medical characters going in and out all the time.
‘It was a ward leading to a basement. As I said, I didn’t go there; so I behaved myself.’
He went on: ’I was welcome everywhere else, and as I say the doctors and nurses there were very welcoming and very kind and the hushed tones under which this was said was very consistent with all the other hushed tones with which Hamas was discussed.
‘You know people were genuinely fearful. I cannot emphasise too much, the air of collective paranoia that existed there.
‘If hospital staff were 10 per cent frightened of possible Israeli airstrikes, they were 90 per cent frightened of being persecuted by Hamas.’
In footage released by the IDF on Sunday, a tunnel under the hospital – where guns and ammunition have also been discovered – leads to a bomb-proof blast door which has yet to be breached.
An Italian journalist, who visited the hospital in 2009 after Israel’s Operation Cast Lead against Hamas, told local media they had seen a similar door.
They said: ’Shifa is a very large compound. I got lost inside it, and at some point I ended up on an underground floor, and I found myself in front of two armed Hamas men in military attire, who told me to get out.
‘I got the impression they were guarding a security door that gave access to their underground infrastructure.
‘Several Palestinian sources I spoke with later on confirmed that Hamas’ command and control centre was located under Shifa Hospital and that [Hamas leader] Ismail Haniyeh had been hiding there throughout the duration of Operation Cast Lead.’
Announcing the discovery of the tunnels, the Israel Defence Force said it had been ‘telling the truth’ and posted a video on their website inviting readers to ‘have a look at the evidence’ for themselves.
Also included in the footage were clips of two hostages – a Nepalese and Thai man – who were taken by Hamas terrorists on October 7, and doctors and medical staff can be seen in the background.
Although the faces in the video – time stamped just a few hours after the October 7 attacks – were blurred, Israel said it had ‘notified the appropriate authorities’ about the men.
The hospital has been subjected to intense military attacks by the IDF, who on Sunday allowed the evacuationo of 31 premature babies to Egypt.
The Hamas-run health ministry says more than 13,000 people have died in Israel’s military operation and that several schools being used as shelters, and hospitals have been hit.
PM says Israel can defend itself from enemy who ‘hides in hospitals’