KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip (AP) — Days after Israeli forces entered Gaza 's main hospital to look for Hamas operations, the army said it had strong evidence supporting its claims that Hamas maintains a sprawling command post inside and under Shifa.
The U.S. has said it has intelligence to support Israel's claim that Hamas set up its main command center in and under the hospital, which has multiple buildings over an area of several city blocks.
Israel has portrayed the hospital as a key target in its war to end Hamas’ rule in Gaza following the militant group’s into southern Israel six weeks ago.
The army said it found a 60-yard tunnel about 33 feet under the hospital’s 20-acre complex, which includes several buildings, garages and a plaza. It said the tunnel included a staircase, blast-proof door and a firing hole that could be used by snipers.
Israel’s findings included security camera video showing what the military said were two foreign hostages, one Thai and one Nepalese, taken to the hospital following the Oct. 7 attack.
The army also said an independent medical report had determined that Israeli army Cpl. Noa Marciano, whose body was recovered in Gaza, had been killed by Hamas in the hospital. Marciano had been injured in an Israeli strike Nov. 9 that killed her captor, according to Israel's intelligence assessment. The injuries were not life-threatening but she was then killed by a Hamas militant in Shifa, the army said.
About 1,200 people have been killed on the Israeli side, mainly civilians during the Oct. 7 attack in which Hamas dragged some 240 captives back into Gaza and shattered Israel’s sense of security. The military says 63 Israeli soldiers have been killed, including 12 over the past 24 hours.
Hamas has released four hostages, Israel has rescued one, and the bodies of two were found near Shifa.
Israel, the United States and Qatar, which mediates with Hamas, have been negotiating a hostage release for weeks. “We are hopeful that we can get a significant number of hostages freed in the coming days,” Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael Herzog, told ABC’s “This Week.”
Qatar’s prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, said the sticking points were "more practical, logistical.”
Israel's three-member war cabinet is to meet with representatives of the hostages’ families on Monday evening.
Yemen's Houthi rebels seized a Israeli-linked cargo ship in the southern Red Sea and took its 25 crew members hostage Sunday, an action that raised fear the region's tensions heightened by the war were playing out on a new maritime front. The Iran-backed rebel group said it would continue to target ships connected to Israel.
Israeli officials said no Israelis were aboard the Bahamas-flagged Galaxy Leader, which had a mix of foreign crew. Public shipping databases associated the ship’s owners with Ray Car Carriers, which was founded by Abraham “Rami” Ungar, who is known as one of the richest men in Israel.
Ungar told The Associated Press he was aware of the incident but couldn’t comment as he awaited details. A ship linked to him experienced an explosion in 2021 in the Gulf of Oman. Israeli media blamed it on Iran at the time.
The Galaxy Leader was taken to the port city of Hodeida, near the coast of Eritrea, according to the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, citing a security officer with the ship’s company.