Information received from a Hamas operative who crossed the border to Israel indicates once again that Hamas uses Gaza Strip hospitals for military purposes

The hospital named after the shahid Kamal Adwan in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip (palmultaqa, August 6, 2016). Hamas used this hospital for military purposes during Operations Cast Lead and Protective Edge.
The hospital named after the shahid Kamal Adwan in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip (palmultaqa, August 6, 2016). Hamas used this hospital for military purposes during Operations Cast Lead and Protective Edge.

Detention of Hamas operative Bilal al-Razayna

1.   On November 27, 2016, Bilal al-Razayna, 24, resident of the Gaza Strip, was detained after crossing the security fence into Israeli territory. Al-Razayna, who belongs to the Izz al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military-terrorist wing, was involved in various military activities such as sniper training, digging tunnels, and securing facilities. He also served as an armed escort of his brother, Mustafa al-Razayna, the head of Hamas’s internal security service in the northern Gaza Strip (Israel Security Agency website, December 28, 2016).

2.   Bilal al-Razayna’s interrogation indicated that during Operation Protective Edge (July-August 2014), his brother and other senior Hamas commanders were hiding in Kamal Adwan Hospital, in the northern Gaza Strip, and conducted the fighting from there. Bilal al-Razayna said that during the operation, he served as a messenger between his brother and senior Hamas commanders. In addition, his interrogation also showed that senior officials in the Hamas internal security service conducted the fighting from civilians’ houses (Israeli Security Agency website, December 28, 2016).

Bilal al-Razyna (treckat.com, December 29, 2016)
Bilal al-Razyna (treckat.com, December 29, 2016)

3.   Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip reported that the escape of Bilal al-Razayna, the brother of Mustafa al-Razayna who serves as the head of the Hamas internal security service in the northern Gaza Strip, caused a great deal of embarrassment among Hamas (Watan 24, December 2, 2016). This embarrassment is reflected in statements released by Iyad al-Bazm, the spokesman of Hamas’s Interior Ministry, and Bilal al-Razayna’s family. Both statements denied the information published in Israeli media and claimed that Bilal al-Razayna was deranged. According to the family statement, the entire information was extracted from Bilal under torture (Sawa, December 28, 2016; Saham News, December 29, 2016).

Military uses of Kamal Adwan Hospital

4.   The shahid Kamal Adwan Hospital is located in the village of Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip. It was founded in 2002, during the Second Intifada. Its objective was to provide medical services to the population in the area, numbering about 280,000 (website of the Gaza Ministry of Health, January 3, 2017). At the same time, the hospital location in the north of the Gaza Strip in proximity to the Israeli border makes it, from Hamas’s perspective, a suitable site for conducting the fighting against Israel and for other military uses.

Kamal Adwan hospital in the northern Gaza Strip (Google Maps)
Kamal Adwan hospital in the northern Gaza Strip (Google Maps)

5.   The information provided by Bilal al-Razayna, according to which fighting during Operation Protective Edge was conducted by Hamas from Kamal Adwan Hospital, corresponds to information released at the time on Hamas’s use of that same hospital for military purposes during Operation Cast Lead (November 27, 2008 –January 18, 2009).[1] The main points are as follows:

a.   During Operation Cast Lead, Hamas’s military operatives set up an improvised operations room in Kamal Adwan Hospital.

b.   Kamal Adwan hospital served as the main activity center of police and security services in the northern Gaza Strip. In addition, armed operatives were also in the vicinity of the hospital.

c.   During the IDF ground operation in the Gaza Strip, military operatives assembled in Kamal Adwan Hospital.

d.   During the operation, they were staying in the hospital wearing civilian clothes and transferring weapons.

e.   Hamas’s military operatives were also hiding during the fighting in the vicinity of the hospital.

f.     Hamas’s senior official Fathi Hamad, who was appointed Interior Minister after Operation Cast Lead (and served in this capacity until May 2014), settled in the hospital.

Summary
6.   During Operations Cast Lead and Protective Edge, Hamas used Kamal Adwan Hospital for military purposes. Making military use of hospitals and vehicles carrying medical insignia is a familiar Hamas modus operandi stemming from their knowledge that the IDF will refrain from attacking them. From Hamas’s (and the other terrorist organizations’) perspective, this awareness attributes immunity of sorts to the operatives and military infrastructure located in the Gaza Strip hospitals, and therefore it can be assumed that Hamas will make extensive use of this modus operandi once again.

 

[1]On the military use of Kamal Adwan Hospital and other hospitals, see the ITIC's Information Bulletin from March 2010: “Hamas and the Terrorist Threat from the Gaza Strip. The Main Findings of the Goldstone Report Versus the Factual Findings.” See also the ITIC's Information Bulletin from July 23, 2014: “Hamas and the Other Terrorist Organizations in the Gaza Strip Use Medical Facilities and Ambulances for Military-Terrorist Purposes.”