April 1, 2024 | FDD's Long War Journal

IDF ends two-week Shifa hospital raid

April 1, 2024 | FDD's Long War Journal

IDF ends two-week Shifa hospital raid

The Israel Defense Forces left the large Shifa hospital compound overnight between March 31 and April 1 at the same time of day they had arrived: in the middle of the night. When it began, the operation consisted of IDF naval commandos from Shayetet 13 in a quick raid designed to take hundreds of alleged terrorists sheltering at the hospital by surprise. The commandos were followed by tanks of the 401st armored brigade, and the operation was managed by Israel’s 162nd division which controls northern Gaza.

Between March 18 and 31, the IDF detained up to 900 suspects at the hospital and also fought gun battles with terrorists who barricaded themselves in several buildings at the compound. The IDF says around 200 terrorists were killed in these battles. Of the 900 suspects, a total of 513 are confirmed to be members of Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the IDF said in a briefing on April 1.

According to the briefing, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar saw Shifa as an important command and control center in northern Gaza. The IDF had left the area of the hospital after clearing it in November. However, it was always suspected some terrorists continued to hide at the hospital, because not every person or place therein had been searched. Consequently, the terrorists began to congregate in large numbers, leading to the IDF’s decision to execute a surprise raid. In the first operation at Shifa in November, the IDF had provided the suspected terrorists with up to a week of warning to vacate the area. On March 18, however, the IDF showed up unexpected.

According to the IDF, the terrorists barricaded themselves in the emergency room, the maternity ward and a management building. This led to significant destruction in these areas over the two weeks of the raid. The IDF found weapons, documents and money stashed in various areas. The terrorists also hid these items in places like toilets and in the ceiling. According to the briefing on April 1, millions of Israeli shekels, Jordanian dinars, and other currencies were found, and some were earmarked for specific activities or units.

The terrorists returned to Shifa because they felt they could embed there and also have sources of food and water. Nevertheless, the 1,000 suspected terrorists lurking among 5,000 civilians and medical personnel suggests that approximately one in six of the people in the sprawling Shifa compound were linked to Hamas or PIJ. Mortars were fired at the IDF throughout the raid on Shifa, suggesting a continued Hamas presence in the north and thus the possibility of additional IDF raids in the area.

The IDF says it has completed the mission at Shifa as an operation Rafah near the Egyptian border still hangs in the balance. In addition, the IDF continues to control the Netzerim corridor that splits Gaza in two and has enabled quick maneuver into both central Gaza, where Hamas continues to control several urban areas, and into northern Gaza.

The IDF said on Monday, April 1 that “in the central Gaza Strip, an IDF helicopter directed by IDF troops struck a booby-trapped Hamas military compound from which terrorists observed IDF troops and an additional Hamas military compound.” There were also sniper and other threats to IDF troops. In Khan Younis, the IDF continues to operate in Amal, a neighborhood where Hamas maintains a presence.

Reporting from Israel, Seth J. Frantzman is an adjunct fellow at FDD and a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal. He is the acting news editor and senior Middle East correspondent and analyst at The Jerusalem Post. 

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Israel Israel at War