In targeting hospitals during the recent 50-day long assault on Gaza, Israeli officials repeatedly claimed that Palestinian resistance fighters were hiding in hospitals, using hospitals to store weapons or actually firing from hospitals. But when pressed for evidence, the officials were able to produce nothing during the entire 50 days but a short video clip claiming to show fighters at Al Wafa hospital.The clip, around 90 seconds long, was actually several spliced together pieces of tape â€“ one of which was from 2009, another of which had a satellite-looking image of a building with a red arrow pointing at a building and saying ‘Al Wafa Hospital’ â€“ when the building in the image was not Al Wafa at all. And an audio recording of a talk between a Palestinian informant and an Israeli military officer was actually from a different incident altogether.
Al Wafa Hospital was completely destroyed by Israeli bombardment during the first few days of the Israeli ground invasion. It is located near al-Shuja’eyya neighborhood, which faced several days of constant bombardment and leading thousands of residents to flee for their lives, and hundreds to be buried under the rubble of their homes.
Up until the day before the Israeli ground invasion began, on July 18th (10 days into the aerial assault on Gaza), international volunteers had been present in Al Wafa hospital, Gaza’s only rehabilitation center and one of very few geriatric units. They were trying to protect patients who were too ill to be moved, after Israeli forces repeatedly told hospital officials to get out, because the hospital was going to be bombed.
The presence of international observers on the ground at al-Wafa, say local residents, would have made the massacre that followed in the next few days harder for the international community to swallow. But, with the internationals out of the way, the wholesale ravaging of al-Shuja’eyya district and the bombardment of al-Wafa hospital could be carried out with impunity. When pressed for justification, Israeli officials produced just this grainy, hacked-together video that has since turned out to be falsified.
According to investigative reporter Gareth Porter of truth-out.org, â€śThe IDF began to prepare the ground for the destruction of Al Wafa hospital well before Israeli ground troops entered Gaza on July 17. On July 11, the IDF fired four warning rockets on the fourth floor of Al Wafa, making a large hole in the ceiling – the standard IDF signal that a building was going to be destroyed by an airstrike.
On July 17, the hospital was hit by a total of 15 rockets, according to Dr. Basman Alashi, Al Wafa’s director. After the first few rockets, a phone call from the [Israeli army] ‘asked how much time do you need to evacuate?’ he told Truthout:
â€śAfter the second and third floors were largely destroyed, the patients’ rooms were filled with smoke and the hospital lost electricity, he gave the order to evacuate the hospital.â€ť
The eight seconds of the video released by the Israeli military purporting to show a couple of flashes of gunfire from a window of the hospital were not from the 2014 Israeli invasion of Gaza, said the head of the hospital, but were from 2009, when the hospital had been evacuated and was briefly used by fighters.
Gareth Porter writes at truth-out.org, â€śDr. Alashi [head of al-Wafa hospital] said he believes the eight-second video clip portrays firing from the annex that occurred in the 2008-09 Israeli attack on Gaza. ‘People confirmed to me that there was firing from the building then,’ he told Truthout. That building was, in fact, attacked on January 16, 2009, by Israeli tanks only 70 meters away from the hospital, damaging the third and fourth floors of the building – the very floors from which the flashes are shown in the video – as the UN Fact-Finding Mission noted in its September 2009 report.
â€śThe last segment of the video showing the bombing of the Al Wafa hospital, bears the legend ‘secondary explosion’ – meaning explosions of weapons – as each building is shown being destroyed, in line with the Israeli argument throughout the operation that Hamas stored rockets and other weapons in hospitals, schools and mosques.
â€śThe video first shows the hospital itself being blown up, followed by heavy billowing smoke covering the entire hospital and then another flash of fire. But the former intelligence official who viewed the video said that flash indicated another Israeli missile strike on the target rather than a secondary explosion.
â€śThe clip then cuts to the destruction of the annex, again with the ‘secondary explosion’ legend. The billowing smoke from the initial bomb explosion covers the building and, then, two or three small puffs of darker smoke appear. Those puffs of smoke would suggest a secondary explosion, according to the former US intelligence officer. But he also observed that a hospital would have flammable materials other than hidden weapons that could cause the darker smoke to appear.
â€śGiven the existence of Hamas’ complex network of tunnels, which provided plenty of storage space for its rockets and other weaponry, it would have made no sense for Hamas to store rockets in a hospital that it knew had already been targeted by the IDF.
â€śIn its final seconds, the video focuses in to show a square which the legend describes as a ‘tunnel opening near Al Wafa.’ But, Dr. Alashi told Truthout that it is actually a water well.â€ť
For the full report by Gareth Porter, click on the link below: