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Peace and Conflict

IDF operating against Hamas in Shifa Hospital | Update 18th March 2024

IDF operating against Hamas in Shifa Hospital via BICom

What’s happening: The IDF is currently conducting a targeted operation against Hamas in the area of the Shifa hospital in Gaza City.

  • The operation began early this morning, just a few hours before the Israeli delegation to Qatar was scheduled to depart to renew negotiations for the release of the hostages.
  • As troops surrounded the hospital, they were shot at and engaged in exchange of fire. Whilst the IDF has called on civilians to evacuate, more than 80 suspects have been detained so far. Several terrorists have been killed in firefights.
  • IDF Spokesperson Hagari confirmed that “troops operating in the area were trained for the mission and were briefed in advance about the importance of refraining from harming civilians, patients, medical teams and medical equipment,”
  • The IDF also released a recording  of a phone conversation between IDF Col. Moshe Tetro, head of the Coordination and Liaison Administration, and Dr. Youssef Abu Rish, the Director General of the Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip.
    • Col. Tetro said, “We see that the Hamas terrorist organisation has continued its military operations from inside hospitals. We are prepared to provide any humanitarian assistance needed. Our request is simple: the immediate halt to all terrorist activity in hospitals, as we saw in the hospital in Khan Yunis.”
    • Dr. Abu Rish replied, “We received your message and I assure you that we are on the same page. Hospitals need to be a place for providing service and no one must harm the patients or the provision of medical treatment in these hospitals.”
  • Hagari added, “even in the course of the operation, the IDF has guaranteed the hospital’s ongoing operation, and it brought Arabic-speakers to the scene so that they might engage in dialogue with patients in the hospital. IDF doctors are prepared to help anyone who needs that. The patients and the medical teams need not leave the hospital, but there is passage for the departure of civilians from the area.”
  • His office added, “the IDF will continue to operate in compliance with international law and against the Hamas terrorist organisation, which is operating out of hospitals and civilian infrastructure in a systematic and cynical pattern of behaviour, without making any distinction between the civilian population and the organisation’s terrorists.”

Context: This operation was planned several days ago after intelligence showed Hamas operatives, including senior terrorists, had regrouped inside the hospital and were using it as a base to launch attacks.  

  • In addition, the IDF continues to face multi-theatre operations:
    • Across other areas of the Gaza Strip.
    • In Lebanon, where IDF planes bombed Hezbollah targets following continues fire on Israel’s northern border over the weekend. 
    • Pro-Iranian militias in Iraq claimed responsibility for launching drones towards the Golan Heights. 
    • Overnight there was also a suspected infiltration by Yemeni drone. According to the IDF “a suspicious aerial target crossed into Israeli territory from the Red Sea and fell into an open area north of the city of Eilat. The target was monitored by IAF forces. No damage was caused and no injuries were reported.”
  • In parallel, both the War Cabinet and the wider Security Cabinet met last night to formulate the scope for the Israeli hostage negotiators led by Mossad Director David Barnea.
  • Whilst no details have been released, the speculated positions include:
    • Israel is not expected to accept Hamas’s demand that the IDF withdraw from the corridor south of Gaza City, which prevents Palestinians from returning to the northern Gaza Strip.
    • Israel also objects to Hamas’s demand that the second phase of the deal include a permanent ceasefire.
    • The key negotiations will be over the ratio of released hostages in exchange for Palestinian security prisoners, and how may and which “heavyweight” (mass murderer) terrorists will be released. Speculation suggests 40 civilian hostages for 950 prisoners.
    • However, Hamas are thought to be demanding 50 prisoners in exchange for every female soldier being held hostage, including 30 “heavyweight” prisoners
  • The negotiations could be carried out in a similar fashion to the Shalit talks, with Israeli and Hamas delegations in sperate quarters in the same hotel, with the Egyptian an Qatari envoys shuttling in-between.      
  • Also in parallel, aid continues to enter Gaza: 61 UN trucks, including 19 into northern Gaza.
  • Also, a ship carrying 200 tons of aid from the World Central Kitchen organisation arrived on Friday. 12 WCK trucks distributed the aid to the northern Gaza Strip.
  • Also, the weekend saw the first time a Fatah statement criticised Hamas asking, “did Hamas consult the Palestinian leadership or any Palestinian national party when it made its decision to carry out the ‘adventure’ of last October 7, which led to a catastrophe more horrific than the Nakba of 1948?... [Hamas] have no right to dictate national priorities.”

Looking ahead: Israel faces growing calls from the international community to end the fighting. In response Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Cabinet yesterday, “In the international community, there are those who are trying to stop the war now, before all of its goals have been achieved… Let it be clear: If we stop the war now, before all of its goals are achieved, this means that Israel will have lost the war, and this we will not allow. Therefore, we cannot, and will not, succumb to this pressure.”

  • He also reiterated the need to operate in Rafah. Netanyahu said, “we have approved the operational plans for action in Rafah, including advancing the steps to evacuate the civilian population from the combat zones. This is an essential stage ahead of the military action… We will operate in Rafah. This will take several weeks, and it will happen.”

via BICom