A 55-metre-long and 10-metre-deep tunnel shaft was uncovered under the besieged al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza, Israeli army claimed in a statement on Sunday. Israel stepped up its accusations against Hamas while searching the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip and said a captive soldier had been executed and two foreign hostages were held at the site.
At one point, a shelter for Palestinian refugees, al-Shifa hospital turned into a mass grave due to the continuous shelling and gunfire. About 2,500 displaced people, mobile patients and medical staff left Shifa Hospital have been evacuated, the WHO said, adding that about 25 medical staff, along with the patients, remained.
Israeli troops who have been based at the hospital and searching its grounds for days said they have found guns and other weapons, and showed reporters what they claimed was the entrance to the tunnel shaft.
Israel has long alleged that Hamas maintains a sprawling command post inside and under al-Shifa, although Hamas has denied their presence in civilian infrastructure. The hospital has been the army’s key target in its war to end Hamas' rule in Gaza following the militant group's wide-ranging attack into southern Israel six weeks ago.
However, the magnitude of deaths and devastation in Gaza, and the bombing of protected spaces like hospitals and refugee camps have caused them a lot of criticism.
Hamas and hospital staff have repeatedly denied the militant group’s presence there, while critics believe the attack on the hospital is a symbol of what they say is Israel's reckless endangerment of civilians and a genocide of Palestinians.
More than 11,500 people have been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza, according to Palestinian health authorities. Another 2,700 have been reported missing, believed buried under rubble, and there are severe shortages of food, water, medicine and fuel in the besieged territory.