Israel on Monday night claimed to have uncovered a hospital basement with evidence children had been held hostage there by Hamas terrorists.
Israeli commanders said that troops who entered Gaza City’s Rantisi Hospital found baby bottles, nappies, chairs with rope and a motorbike like those used by Hamas to ferry back captives from the October 7 raids into Israel.
Alongside makeshift toilets and curtains said to be used to film possible hostage videos, the IDF also claimed to have found stores of weapons and suicide-bomb vests.
The claims were made in a briefing by Daniel Hagari, the senior spokesman for the Israeli Defence Forces, who produced images of the hospital’s basement after visiting it himself.
“These are explosive bomb vests, yet terrorists are storing them in a children’s hospital,” he said.
While he said the investigation was “still ongoing” to establish conclusively what the basement had been used for, all the indications were that it had been used as a hostage holding pen. The whereabouts of any prisoners were currently unknown.
“Hamas is a barbaric org, using hostages as human shields,” he said. “This is a war crime, against international law.”
The IDF claims have not been independently verified.
Mr Hagari spoke as Hamas said it told Qatari mediators that it was prepared to free up to 70 women and children hostages in exchange for a five-day Israeli ceasefire.
Hamas also released what it said was footage of a female Israeli military hostage, whom it said was killed in an Israeli airstrike on November 9.
The footage included a pre-recorded statement of her pleading for her release, plus footage of her corpse.
It came as Joe Biden on Monday night said that Gaza’s largest hospital “must be protected” and called for “less intrusive action” by Israeli forces.
Hundreds of patients remain trapped inside Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City as Israeli troops and Hamas engage in heavy fighting outside it.