On Monday, Arab investigative unit Eekad found no presence or evidence of any tunnel, debunking Hagari’s allegations.
An Al Jazeera probe has debunked Israel’s allegations over the presence of a Hamas tunnel at a Qatar-funded hospital in Gaza, echoing findings from several investigations looking into the matter.
The investigation delved deeper into claims made by the Israeli occupation forces’ (IOF) spokesperson Daniel Hagari, who alleged Hamas is using a number of health facilities, including the Qatar-funded Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa bin Thani Hospital, Al-Shifa Hospital and Al Quds Hospital as bases for Hamas operations.
“Qatar’s government had funded its establishment and it’s called the Qatari Hospital. Here you can see members of the Israeli defence forces revealing an opening for a tunnel, this is part of the land operation that was carried out at this hospital,” he claimed on Sunday, pointing to an alleged tunnel opening.
Inaugurated in 2019, the facility was the first prosthetic hospital to open in Gaza and was named after Qatar’s Father Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. The hospital has already sustained severe damage during Israel’s bombing campaign of Gaza.
Al Jazeera investigated the tunnel openings in question by dissecting the structures and revisiting images and videos from the first stages of the hospital’s construction.
An eight-year-old clip showed the construction of the same opening, revealing that it was not connected to any underground tunnel system and “is nothing more than a water reservoir.”
The Qatar-based broadcaster further verified its findings by speaking to one of the engineers who worked on constructing the Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa bin Thani Hospital.
“The IOF showed a concrete hatch in the eastern side of the hospital. It was the hatch of an underground water tank,” he said.
The engineer also held up an illustration of the tank to explain its structure to Al Jazeera, providing more evidence to cross-reference with the openings in question.
“Visible above the ground are the concrete hatch, a metal lid, and a pressure equalisation hatch used to expel air when filling the tank with water,” he explained.
Al Jazeera is not the first platform to look into the Israeli claims.
On Monday, Arab investigative unit Eekad found no presence or evidence of any tunnel, also debunking Hagari’s allegations. The investigators also analysed a video published by the Al Saqqa and Khoudary contracting company that showed the construction process of the Qatar-funded hospital.
“By examining the clip, we noticed that the location of the two openings, one of which the occupation claimed was a Hamas tunnel, was surrounded and covered with a concrete roof, resembling an underground tank,” Eekad noted.
The presence of water and fuel tanks underground is common for hospitals due to the need of storage.
Eekad cited the United States Environmental Protection Agency and ASPR TRACIE—a website of the US Department of Health and Human Services—which both stated that “hospitals may resort to building underground tanks” for water and fuel.
Separately on Sunday, Boycott4Pal, a Palestinian entity that monitors and debunks Israel’s media propaganda. The Palestinian watchdog also contacted the contractors who built the Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa bin Thani Hospital, who clarified that the so-called tunnels are in fact water tanks.
The Chairman of the Qatari Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza Mohammed Al Emadi also responded to the allegations on Monday, accusing Israel of making the claims without providing “concrete evidence or an independent investigation”.
Speaking to Qatar’s news agency (QNA) at the time, Al Emadi described Hagari’s statements “a blatant attempt to justify the occupation’s targeting of civilian facilities, including hospitals, schools, gatherings of population, and shelters of displaced people.”
Al Emadi confirmed to QNA that the hospital “was established transparently in accordance with the highest international standards under the supervision of the Qatari Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza, with Israeli approval, for medical purposes, with thousands of people in Gaza benefiting from it.”
The Qatari envoy stressed “that such allegations should not be launched randomly, demanding that the Israeli allegations should not be taken at face value without an independent investigation into its circumstances.”
Ongoing targeting of hospitals
Israel has long claimed that hospitals in Gaza have underground tunnels that are used by Hamas fighters in their fight against the occupying state. Since it declared war on Gaza on October 7, Israel has targeted numerous schools and hospitals.
The month-long Israeli aggression has now killed at least 10,569 Palestinians, including 4,237 children—who represent 40% of the total toll.
Due to the ongoing attacks as well as an Israeli imposed siege on the tirp, Gaza’s already overwhelmed health sector has now collapsed.
More than one-third of hospitals in Gaza have already shut down either due to damage or lack of fuel, and the remaining 10 hospitals in the north of the Strip continue to face threats of bombing by Israel.
Hospitals in Gaza receive an average of one wounded person every minute and 15 bodies every hour, the Gaza Media Office said. An average of six children and five women are killed every hour and almost 70% of Gaza’s population has been displaced.
Health facilities, including the vital Al Shifa Hospital, have been receiving almost daily bombing threats by the IOF, which has already launched multiple attacks on surrounding areas. Part of the Al Shifa hospital was targeted on Monday, just days after Israel bombed its gates on Friday.
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Tuesday said it was “deeply troubled” after its aid convoy came under attack in Gaza, leaving two trucks damaged and a driver wounded.
The trucks were delivering lifesaving medical supplies to health facilities in the besieged Gaza Strip.
“The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is deeply troubled that its humanitarian convoy in Gaza City came under fire on Tuesday,” the international organisation posted on its website.
Separatelt last week, a group of 100 Israeli doctors shocked the world after calling for the bombing of Al Shifa, the largest hospital in Gaza, as per a report by Israeli news site HaMedash reported.
“Bomb the terror nests and Hamas headquarters in the hospitals in Gaza. A place that is a home for terrorism is not a hospital protected from war,” the doctors’ said in a joint statement.
On Sunday, Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani slammed justifications of the ongoing massacres and called out Israel for its genocide and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
“Every day, the occupation engages in genocidal practices and crimes of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people, not to mention the indiscriminate bombing of hospitals, schools, refugee camps and other civilian facilities in which the displaced, women, children and the elderly have taken shelter,” Sheikh Mohammed said.