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January 13th, 2009
Hamas Hiding in Shifa Hospital?

Israeli intelligence officials say that Hamas leaders are operating out of a bunker underneath Shifa Hospital–Gaza’s largest–while above, doctors are struggling to handle the flood of casualties from Israel’s ongoing military operation.

“Shifa Hospital has long ago ceased to be just a hospital,” Israeli Public Security Minister and former intelligence chief Avi Dichter said on Monday. “It is somewhat of an open secret that Hamas commanders walk around the hospital, in some instances wearing doctor’s robes,” Dichter said.

The allegations have not been independently confirmed by reporters on the ground–the Israeli military has banned foreign media from the Gaza Strip in what the Foreign Press Association has called an “unprecedented restriction of press freedom.”

But WIDE ANGLE reached a doctor in Gaza who believes Hamas officials are hiding either in the basement or in a separate underground area underneath the hospital and said that they moved there recently because other locations have been destroyed by Israel. The doctor, who asked not to be named, added that he believes Hamas is aware that they are putting civilians in harm’s way.

Asked for an update on the humanitarian situation in the hospital, the same doctor said that the daily three-hour window for delivery of supplies has helped somewhat–electricity and water are flowing more regularly, and hospitals have many of the supplies they need, but can always use more.

Dr. Hassan Khalaf, director of Shifa Hospital, says that 917 people have been killed in 17 days of fighting. Casualties number 4,215, and Shifa Hospital has only 600 beds.

In 2006, WIDE ANGLE reported from Shifa Hospital in the film Gaza E.R. Click here for a preview.

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