The Israeli army accused Hamas on Friday of abusing hospitals in the Gaza Strip for military purposes, as war rages in and around the Palestinian territory.
The allegation was swiftly denied by Hamas, and the main United Nations agency working in Gaza said earlier it had mechanisms in place to prevent aid being diverted.
“Hamas wages war from hospitals” in Gaza, military spokesman Daniel Hagari told journalists, adding that the Islamist group was also using fuel stored in hospitals to help carry out its operations.
Hagari specifically identified Al-Shifa hospital, the largest in Gaza, as one from which Hamas militants were operating.
“Terrorists move freely” in Shifa and other hospitals, he said.
His allegations came as Israel pressed a withering air campaign against Hamas, now nearing the end of its third week, in response to the gruesome attacks by the group’s militants on southern Israel on October 7 that killed around 1,400 people.
Hagari said Hamas had relied on hospitals to maintain its war effort, charging that the group had used hospitals “as command and control centres and hideouts”.
The spokesman said some entrances to the sprawling network of tunnels Hamas has built under Gaza could also be found inside hospitals, calling it a “cynical” use of medical facilities to shield their operations.
“There is fuel in hospitals and Hamas is using it for its terror infrastructure,” he added.
A senior member of the Hamas political bureau, Izzat al-Rishq, swiftly fired back at the allegations from the Israeli army, calling them unfounded.
“There’s no basis in truth in what the spokesman of the enemy army stated,” Rishq said, accusing Israel of making up the allegations to “pave the way for a new massacre to be committed against our people”.
Earlier the commissioner general for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, denied that any aid was being diverted.
“We have solid monitoring mechanisms… UNRWA does not and will not divert any humanitarian aid into the wrong hands,” Lazzarini said.
During the October 7 attack on Israel, Hamas gunmen also kidnapped 229 people, according to Israeli officials.
Since Israel launched retaliatory air and artillery strikes on the day of the attack, at least 7,326 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip, according to figures released by the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.
The death toll in Gaza is the highest since Israel unilaterally withdrew troops and settlers from the enclave in 2005.