Whether al-Shifa hospital etc. host Hamas weapons and tunnels is under current dispute (although the videos of the under-hospital facilities keep pouring in).

However these are not new claims by the Israelis. For years and through multiple rounds of the conflict they've said Hamas deliberately hides among civilians and in populated, protected civilian infrastructure - mosques, schools, hospitals, ambulances, populated private residences, etc., making tactical use of Israeli reluctance to target them. And gaining international sympathy if Israel strikes anyway.

For example, a 2009 post from The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center:

The many mosques in the Gaza Strip serve not only religious functions, but are also put to military use by Hamas and the other terrorist organizations. They are used to hide terrorist operatives, store weapons, as sites from which rockets and mortar shells are launched, sites for launching terrorist attacks and for training terrorist operatives.

Is there any verified evidence from before Oct. 7, 2023 that Hamas has used active, protected civilian infrastructure as military defense (shields)? Preferably from non-IDF sources (for more impartiality).

  • 1
    "hides in civilian infrastructure". This would be surprising how? Even Ukraine does that, in practically every city fight they did. The controversial part is doing it with many civilians still milling about. Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 16:07
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    Related Q (but with a quote, I suggest you also add one here): skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/56354/… Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 16:40
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    I note that the quoted claim is specifically about mosques. The current answer is about mosques and "residential neighborhoods, cemeteries, schoolyards, and mosque courtyards", but the claim is being used to suggest hiding in hospitals. The latter is clearly a war-crime. The former is less clear (perhaps "probably a war crime"). So beware of conflating the two issues.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 21:35
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    "Whether al-Shifa hospital etc. host Hamas weapons and tunnels is under current dispute" after the idfs video displaying the hostages in the hospital, it isn't anymore.
    – TheAsh
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 2:29
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    This claim in The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center about isn't about "civilian infrastructure" it's about religious infrastructure. Presumably Hamas uses roads, and bridges -- seems indisputable. Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 3:47

3 Answers 3


Yes they did.

I'm assuming here that the side that asks this question will not be interested of any evidence provided by the IDF or Israeli authorities, so all the evidence brought here are from non Israeli sources.

In addition to Lio Elbammalf's answer citing the AP interview of Ghazi Hamad, we have other evidence from witnesses, analysts and from the head of Hamas himself.

Two examples of direct witnesses:

In addition a rocket was launched, right in the back parking lot of hospital(Shifa) a rocket was launched, two o'clock in the morning. Really,it happened right in the area, the sound of it was really loud it's true that rockets are launched here from the Gaza side into Israel.

  • UNWRA admits that rockets or other weapons were placed in one of its schools two times, in violation of international law:


Today, in the course of the regular inspection of its premises, UNRWA discovered rockets hidden in a vacant school in the Gaza Strip. As soon as the rockets were discovered, UNRWA staff were withdrawn from the premises, and so we are unable to confirm the precise number of rockets. The school is situated between two other UNRWA schools that currently each accommodate 1,500 internally displaced persons.

UNRWA strongly and unequivocally condemns the group or groups responsible for this flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law.

Then there is a report by NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence(stratcomcoe) about Hamas' use of human shields in Gaza during the period of 2008-2014:

Hamas’ most common uses of human shields include:

  • Firing rockets, artillery, and mortars from or in proximity to heavily populated civilian areas, often from or near facilities which should be protected according to the Geneva Convention (e.g. schools, hospitals, or mosques).
  • Locating military or security-related infrastructures such as HQs, bases, armouries, access routes, lathes, or defensive positions within or in proximity to civilian areas.
  • Protecting terrorists’ houses and military facilities, or rescuing terrorists who were besieged or warned by the IDF.
  • Combating the IDF from or in proximity to residential and commercial areas, including using civilians for intelligence gathering missions

And finally we have an admission from the head himself, in this video posted to Twitter by the IDF from 2021 Yahya Sinwar himself admits that Hamas and other terrorist organizations have their headquarters located inside civilian buildings:

The issue of military headquarters embedded in civilian populations posed a huge problem during the previous rounds of fire. We, and other [militant] functions, have initiated a gradual transfer operation, with the aim of relocating a significant number of military headquarters from within the civilian population. We have managed to move many headquarters [from within the civilian population], but it's necessary to move many more, with God's help we'll continue this work.

We are paying attentions to this issue and have taken care to move a large portion of the headquarters mainly from the towers, residential buildings, and other places. We have successfully relocated many of these headquarters and Inshalla we'll complete this task.

He talks about moving them from the civilian population, but in doing so he admits that:

  • There were many military headquarters imbedded in the civilian population.
  • There were still many military headquarters imbedded in the civilian population when he gave the speech.
  • The military headquarters weren't "just" in proximity to civilian buildings, but inside them "in towers, residential building, and other places".
  • You divide sources into Israeli and non-Israeli, which comes to mind that "Oh, so that's a fair answer." But in fact, this division is not fair. I divide it into 6 sets: Israeli sources (which include left and right), European sources (which include left and right), Western sources (which include left and right), West Bank Palestinian sources, Hamas sources and pro-Hamas sources.
    – C.F.G
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 9:29
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    You can add this link: timesofisrael.com/… a testimony of a UK doctor who worked at Shifa, and saw evidence to Hamas presence. Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 10:55
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    @C.F.G just because someone didn't see evidence doesn't mean that there wasn't. He or she just didn't see.
    – TheAsh
    Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 18:44
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    @C.F.G, if you look at the testimony of the UK doctor he doesn't say "Yes, I saw Hamas officials firing rockets". He said that there was a section of the Hospital where he was directly told to stay away, and it was heavily implied that this was used by Hamas. I never saw with my own eyes the IDF chief of stuff enter or leave the Kirya base, but I know he is located there because of the guards. In addition the Norwegian doctor never said he personally didn't see anything. And lastly, Israel's claim is that Hamas used the basements and tunnels below, not hang around in the Doctors break room.
    – SIMEL
    Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 23:15
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    @C.F.G, the question asked did Hamas use civilian protected buildings for military use. There are clear evidence that they did. Including an admission by Sinwar. Specificly for the comment added, if there are evidence that the Hospital was used by Hamas (or other terrorist groups) for anything other than healing their sick and wounded, then yes, it also answers the question as it shows that Civilian protected complex was used for military purpose, this is appropriate and directly answers the question.
    – SIMEL
    Commented Nov 23, 2023 at 11:44

Yes, Hamas, according to an interview between AP news and Ghazi Hamad, admitted to doing as such during the 2014 war:

This article quotes Hamas as admitting to using civilian areas

Two weeks after the end of the Gaza war, there is growing evidence that Hamas militants used residential areas as cover for launching rockets at Israel, at least at times. Even Hamas now admits “mistakes” were made.

But Hamas says it had little choice in Gaza’s crowded urban landscape, took safeguards to keep people away from the fighting, and that a heavy-handed Israeli response is to blame for the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians.

Throughout the war, the Israeli air force compiled dozens of video clips showing alleged wrongdoing by Hamas, an Islamic militant group sworn to Israel’s destruction.

These videos, many of them posted on YouTube, appear to show rockets flying out of residential neighborhoods, cemeteries, schoolyards and mosque courtyards. There are also images of weapons caches purportedly uncovered inside mosques, and tunnels allegedly used by militants to scurry between homes, mosques and buildings.

Link to IDF video evidence of launches from within built up neighbourhoods - I can't identify any of those as necessarily schools or hospitals but certainly appear to be private residences

  • 6
    The question is about infrastructure, the admission was "Hamad told The Associated Press, offering the first acknowledgment by a Hamas official that, in some cases, militants fired rockets from or near (200-300 yards) residential areas or civilian facilities." Near does not substantiate a claim to be "using". The United States has Air Force Bases that close to houses too, maps.app.goo.gl/yS6k2Z2mGzro7a3d9 Also the IDF is not at all reliable source on this matter, lol. If their statement wasn't made, they'd be facing war crimes. Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 17:37
  • @Lio Elbammalf: You're right, and this could be answer to this Politics Q.
    – YouDontSay
    Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 17:38
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    @EvanCarroll: "From" seems like "using"...
    – YouDontSay
    Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 17:40

Yes, there is.

There's some testimony from doctors who've worked in al-Shifa hospital in the past. Here's an excerpt from a British doctor who worked there in 2020, interviewed by France24:

“When I was first asked to work there [at Shifa], I was told there was a part of the hospital I was not to go near, and if I did, I’d be in danger of being shot,” he was said in the interview.

“Was it explained to you why that was?” Makler asked the doctor.

“No, but implicit was that it was being used for non-medical purposes,” the doctor replied.

“And did you see anything non-medical, or did you buy the instruction and stay away?” Makler persisted.

“I stayed away, but I saw a few dodgy-looking non-medical characters going in and out all the time,” The doctor replied. “It was a ward leading to a basement. As I said I didn’t go there, so I behaved myself.”

“They would say there could be many other reasons that you would be told not to go to a particular area of a hospital. It’s not unusual,” Makler countered.

“Well, I was welcome everywhere else, and as I say, the doctors and nurses there were very welcoming and very kind, and the hushed tones under which this was said were consistent with all the other hushed tones with which Hamas was discussed. You know, people were genuinely fearful,” the doctor explained. “I cannot emphasize too much the air of collective paranoia that existed there.”

The doctor told Makler that if hospital staff were 10% frightened of possible Israeli airstrikes, they were 90% frightened of being persecuted by Hamas.

Not direct observational evidence, but strong indications there was common knowledge of Hamas presence in, and use of, al-Shifa hospital.

If you consider actual humans to be protected civilian infrastructure, there's this, too, in a recent document by the The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, (a separate post from the one referenced in the question, and posted after the question). This is admittedly a pro-Israel source, with lots of information provided by the IDF spokesman, which is not impartial. Of note however is the following:

Yahya al-Sinwar uses children as human shields

When Yahya al-Sinwar, head of the Hamas political bureau in the Gaza Strip, appeared at mass and public events in the Gaza Strip, he was always seen with children nearby. Apparently al-Sinwar, who knew his life was in danger when he appeared in public, also knew that when children were nearby, Israel would not try to kill him because of its ethic not to harm innocent children. For example, on October 1, 2022, Hamas held a mass rally in Gaza City whose theme was “al-Aqsa [Mosque] is in danger.” Al-Sinwar appeared at the rally with two young children at his side (Hamas website, October 1, 2022). On May 26, 2021, a few days after Operation Guardian of the Walls, Yahya al-Sinwar was seen walking the streets of Gaza under tight security. Wherever he was, children were seen close by (Maan, May 26, 2021).Yahya Sinwar with children at Hamas rally

Yahya Sinwar with child at Hamas rally Human (toddler) shields

These photos are conspicuous in that there are almost no other toddlers in the pictures, other than in the immediate proximity of Yahya Sinwar. This man who knows he's a target. The IDF military spokesman has said about him,

Our job is to reach Sinwar and kill him.

A bunch more pictures are provided, demonstrating a pattern of someone who knows he's a target, shielding himself with toddlers when overground.

And this:

Confirmation of Hamas’ use of the population as human shields

The Gazans do not generally protest the use Hamas and other terrorist organizations make of them as human shields. However, an unusual statement confirming the fact was a post uploaded by a Gazan named Khalil Amar Abu Ibrahim. He criticized the terms of the distribution of financial aid to the families of shaheeds in the Gaza Strip on behalf of the al-Ansar Charitable Association, which excluded children under the age of 15 and residents over the age of 60. He wrote there were dozens of families who lost their children because PIJ terrorist operatives barricaded themselves in their buildings. He personally lost his three children in the same attack, and they had served as human shields to protect where “so-and-so” from the “resistance” was staying (Facebook page of the al-Ansar Charitable Association, June 2, 2023).

As stated in the MA Intelligence report, these pictures and quotes are both drawn from non-IDF sources.

To sum it up, we have evidence of Hamas strategically shielding themselves with 1) hospitals, 2) humans (toddlers), and 3) populated civilian residences.

  • 4
    I am totally confused here, it looks like he's at a parade or festival. So because Yahya al-Sinwar had a picture taken with children around him he's using children as human shields? I was solicited to join the US Army almost every day from 11th and 12th Grade, they were literally station IN my high school: does this satisfy your same definition of "human shield"? Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 3:19
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    "children definitely qualify as civilian infrastructure" only if you're literally attacking at the point of which you have children in your vicinity, not if you're at a youth rally where kids have obviously toy guns (they have orange tips). Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 3:21
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    This is the most propagandistic answer I've ever seen on this whole network: the kids aren't a means to deter a military counter attack ("shield" in "human shield"). He's just attending a festival or public rally. Having children around you isn't using children as human shields. This isn't remotely correct. When a US Serviceman returns on active duty and goes to a July 4th parade, is he using children as human shields? Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 3:40
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    The new edit with a doctor talking about al-Shifa is great evidence that there were rumours and the doctor heard them, but not very good evidence that there was any military base. It also seems very much to address the issue that the question said it wasn't about.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 1:07
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    @EvanCarroll, YouDontSay: I created a whole chat for you two to go off with your political rants. Keep them out of the comments. No further warnings.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 3:00

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