IDF spokesman Brig.-Gen. Daniel Hagari showed video evidence of an extensive terrorist tunnel under the Al-Shifa Hospital complex during his daily press briefing on Sunday evening.
The 180-ft tunnel shaft, at the bottom of a 33-ft deep staircase, contains various means of defense, including a blast door with a firing port. The door was built to prevent entry by Israeli troops into the tunnel system.
IDF officials said they are not sure what is behind the door, but believe it leads to a larger Hamas compound. Soldiers have not opened the door out of concern it could be booby-trapped.
According to a report in The Jerusalem Post, the IDF is currently working on a plan to breach the door and explore the rest of the tunnel system.
The entrance to the tunnel shaft is located within the hospital compound, under a shed. Inside the shed, IDF troops also found a vehicle carrying a large quantity of weapons, including RPGs, IEDs, Kalashnikov weapons, and more.
The shed was destroyed by an IDF bulldozer before the entrance to the tunnel was exposed.
“The findings prove beyond any doubt that buildings in the hospital compound serve as infrastructure for Hamas for terrorist activity," according to the IDF statement.
"This is further proof of Hamas' cynical use of the residents of the Gaza Strip as human shields for its murderous terrorist activity.”
As part of the briefing, the IDF released video footage taken by two separate robotic devices that showed a portion of the tunnel network under Shifa.
The IDF and Shin Bet security forces said they are continuing to search the Shifa complex to expose more of Hamas’ tunnel network.
Humanitarian groups have condemned Israel for operating in and around the hospital, saying it is a violation of human rights.
Israel, meanwhile, has defended its operations, stating that, under international law, medical facilities lose their protection if they are used for activities that could harm the opposing military force, such as housing healthy soldiers, storing weapons or functioning as a place of operations.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's advisor, Mark Regev, said the IDF found a Hamas command and control room inside the hospital.
He said Israel would release more evidence soon.
"Once again we have to show – and we still will, it’s just a matter of time – the connection between the tunnel network and the hospital."
The IDF is proceeding cautiously due to fears that the underground tunnels could be lined with booby traps.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.