Facing an international outcry over the increasingly grim conditions at besieged hospitals in the Gaza Strip, Israel sought to bolster its case for military action on Tuesday, releasing a video of what it said were weapons inside a children’s hospital and accounts of sexual violence and other atrocities committed by Hamas during the Oct. 7 attacks.
Israel’s efforts came as conditions for patients, including about three dozen premature babies, became bleaker at the main hospital complex in Gaza City, which has been surrounded by Israeli troops and without power for days. Workers at the hospital, Al-Shifa, are digging a mass grave for bodies there that have started to decompose, according to the medical authorities in Gaza, which Hamas controls.
The hospital’s director, Dr. Mohammed Abu Salmiya, said that doctors there had performed surgeries on Monday without anesthesia and oxygen, and that multiple people had died at the medical complex. He added that health workers had been forced to bury bodies inside the grounds.
Israel presented the video — its second in two days — after weeks in which protesters, for and against the military campaign, have demonstrated around the world and as the United Nations, aid groups and many countries have criticized Israel, called for a cease-fire and warned of calamity at the hospitals. In recent days, President Biden has also urged Israel to use restraint around medical centers, saying, “Hospitals must be protected.”
Israel asserts that Hamas has dug a network of tunnels beneath Gaza’s hospitals, using the patients and workers inside them as human shields for its command centers and safe houses. The United States has backed Israel’s description, saying it has intelligence to that effect. Hamas and hospital officials have denied the accusations.
To convince skeptics of its claim, Israel released the videos from inside Gaza’s main children’s hospital, showing what it said were weapons and explosives found there, and a room where, the military said, hostages had been kept.
“This is not the last hospital like this in Gaza, and the world should know that,” said Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military’s chief spokesman. “It’s a crime.”
While the Health Ministry in Gaza on Tuesday disputed nearly every statement made in the initial Israeli video, it acknowledged that the footage had been taken inside Al-Rantisi Specialized Hospital for Children in northern Gaza. The last patients and staff are believed to have left the hospital over the weekend after it was surrounded by Israeli forces.
The first Israeli video, a six-minute presentation released on Monday, shows Admiral Hagari walking viewers through what he says is the entrance to a tunnel that purportedly runs toward the hospital, and weapons found in the hospital basement. It shows guns, explosives and other weapons arranged as if by the police displaying the haul from a drug raid. The weaponry’s provenance could not be independently confirmed.
The Israeli military followed up on Tuesday, posting a second, shorter video on social media. It runs just over two minutes and purports to show troops rushing into the building, and includes clips of them finding explosives, weapons and a room where, Admiral Hagari claims, hostages were kept in the previously released video.
Osama Hamadan, a Hamas spokesman, speaking at a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday, called the first presentation a “lie and charade.” There was no immediate comment from Gazan officials or Hamas on the second video.
Both videos contained assertions that could not be immediately verified.
A piece of paper taped on a wall in the hospital’s basement, for instance, quickly became the subject of debate. Admiral Hagari said the paper — a grid with Arabic words and numbers within each square — could be a schedule for guarding hostages “where every terrorist writes his name.”
The paper, though, did not include people’s names — the Arabic words were days of the week, and the numbers underneath dates. The Gazan Health Ministry said in a statement that the paper was nothing more than “a regular work shift timetable, a standard administrative practice in hospitals.”
The ministry did not address one key detail: The calendar begins on Oct. 7, and an Arabic title written at the top uses Hamas’s name for the attack: “Al Aqsa Flood Battle, 7/10/2023.”
As for the weapons shown on the video, the ministry said, “We don’t know where they got them.”
Dr. Mustafa Al Kahlout, the hospital’s director, said on Tuesday that families fleeing Israeli bombardment had sought shelter at Al-Rantisi and other hospitals. He called on the Red Cross and other international organizations to “inspect all part of the hospitals.”
The White House on Tuesday supported Israel’s description of Hamas’s use of hospitals for military purposes, though it declined to provide specific details. “We have information that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad use some hospitals in the Gaza Strip, including Al-Shifa, and tunnels underneath them to conceal and to support their military operations and to hold hostages,” the spokesman for the National Security Council, John F. Kirby, told reporters.
“We do not support striking a hospital from the air,” he added. “And we do not want to see a firefight in a hospital where innocent people, helpless people, sick people are simply trying to get the medical care that they deserve.”
Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said on Tuesday that Israeli forces now control “the aboveground area” of northern Gaza — a description that pointedly omitted the tunnels below ground — and could turn toward southern Gaza, as they prepare for the possibility of “long months” of fighting ahead.
As Israel troops have closed in, hospitals in northern Gaza have become a focal point of international concern. The World Health Organization said on Sunday that Al-Shifa was “not functioning as a hospital anymore” and warned of a “dire and perilous” situation for patients and thousands of people sheltering there. Hospital officials said on Monday that about three dozen premature babies were without incubators because of the lack of power.
Israeli officials, defending the campaign, have stressed that they are trying to limit the harm to Gaza’s more than two million civilians. Though the Biden administration has expressed skepticism of tolls issued by the Gazan authorities, “many thousands” of civilians have been killed, Mr. Kirby said last week.
The Israeli military said late Monday that it was working to deliver mobile incubators and respirators to Al-Shifa Hospital in an attempt to help evacuate babies there. In a statement, the military said it was “willing to work with any reliable mediating party to ensure the transfer of the incubators.”
The New York Times was unable to reach the hospital director or the spokesman for the Gaza Health Ministry to ask about Israel’s offer, the details of which remained unclear.
Israel also sought to shed further light on the brutality of the attack on Oct. 7, when Hamas gunmen killed about 1,200 people in Israel and took more than 200 hostages, according to the Israeli authorities.
At a news briefing on Tuesday, Kobi Shabtai, Israel’s police chief, showed videos taken from the body cameras of slain Hamas terrorists, surveillance footage, crime-scene photographs and a video of an Israeli woman who said she had seen terrorists gang-raping a young woman captured at a music festival in the desert.
“This is the most extensive investigation the State of Israel has ever known,” Chief Shabtai said. “There was a massacre here — crimes against humanity. We have evidence of acts of murders, rapes, amputations, burning people alive, sexual abuse and confirmation of death and kidnapping.”
The briefing was one of several that Israeli officials have held for journalists in which they have shared graphic photos and videos from Oct. 7, and the images included some they had shown before. A few of the videos seen on Tuesday, including those that show people being killed, had been posted on social media by the attackers. Others could not be independently verified.
“The world needs to know what we are facing,” Chief Shabtai said.
Reporting was contributed by Anat Schwartz, Iyad Abuheweila, Aaron Boxerman, Daniel Victor, Ronen Bergman, Talya Minsberg, Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Hiba Yazbek.