The Israeli military has released video footage it says shows hostages being taken into Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital on 7 October, the day Hamas launched its devastating attacks on Israel.
The CCTV video aired by IDF spokesperson Rear Adm Daniel Hagari appeared to show a group of men frog-marching an individual into a hospital, to the surprise of medical staff. A second clip showed an injured man on a gurney. Another man nearby, in civilian clothes, had an assault rifle. The IDF said the two were a Nepalese and a Thai citizen. They were not named, The Guardian reported.
Separately, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) claimed one hostage, a 19-year-old Israeli army conscript named Noa Marciano, had been killed by Hamas at the hospital.
Hamas has previously blamed an Israeli airstrike for her death, issuing a video that appeared to show her body, unmarked except for a head wound.
The IDF said on Sunday a preliminary pathological report and intelligence suggested the airstrike injury to Marciano – whose body was recovered near Shifa last week – had not been life threatening and that she was killed by Hamas.
“According to intelligence information – solid intelligence information – Noa was taken by Hamas terrorists inside the walls of Shifa hospital. There, she was murdered by a Hamas terrorist,” Hagari said. He did not elaborate.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said it was not able to confirm the authenticity of the footage of the two hostages aired by the IDF, according to the BBC. Hamas’ leadership did not immediately comment on the claims. The Palestinian Islamist group, which runs Gaza, has previously said it took some hostages to hospitals for treatment.
The Guardian has not been able to independently verify the video released by Israel.
The latest claims come amid signs Israel and Hamas might be edging towards a deal that would see the release of a significant number of hostages, possibly in return for a limited ceasefire and the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, according to The Guardian.
Israel is still searching for about 240 people Hamas kidnapped and took to Gaza after its cross-border assault that sparked the war.
Senior US and Israeli officials, as well as the Qatari prime minister, all suggested an agreement was close on Sunday, although observers have cautioned that public statements during such negotiations are often misleading and any potential deal could easily collapse.
Al-shifa hospital has been a focus of Israel’s devastating six-week offensive since the attacks by Hamas in which 1,200 people were killed and hundreds were taken hostage. Israel’s retaliatory strikes have killed 13,000 people, more than 5,000 of them children, according to the Hamas government, which seized control of Gaza in 2007.
The World Health Organization said the hospital had become a “death zone”, with a mass grave at the entrance and only 25 staff left to care for 291 seriously ill patients.
Israeli forces first entered the large al-Shifa complex last week, alleging that the militant group Hamas used it as a command centre and identifying it as a key target despite international outcry.
On Sunday, the IDF published video footage it said showed the first solid evidence of a sophisticated Hamas tunnel network underneath the al-Shifa hospital complex.
It said troops operating near the in-patients building at al-Shifa found a booby-trapped pickup truck in a garage inside the medical complex’s walls. When it was destroyed in a controlled explosion, a tunnel was exposed beneath the floor of the garage, the IDF said, providing photographs, The Guardian reported.
In footage dated 16 and 17 November taken by army robots, a tunnel shaft about 10 metres long is navigated by a rickety circular staircase, before it reaches a 55-metre-long tunnel. The tunnel contains electricity wires and slopes downwards until it ends at a blast-proof door, with a small slot through which to fire weapons. The IDF says it is yet to reach beyond the door.
Until Sunday, the IDF had displayed what it said were weapons found after searches of the grounds but was yet to produce evidence to back up the claims of a vast tunnel complex located beneath the hospital – allegations denied by both hospital staff and Hamas.
While acknowledging that it has a network of hundreds of kilometres of secret tunnels, bunkers and access shafts throughout the Palestinian territory, Hamas has denied that these are located in civilian infrastructure such as hospitals.
Mounir El Barsh, the Gaza health ministry director, dismissed the Israeli statement on the tunnel as a “pure lie” “They have been at the hospital for eight days … and yet they haven’t found anything,” he told Al Jazeera television.