Photo Credit: Majdi Fathi/TPS
Gaza's Shifa Hospital operating without interruption on Oct. 29, 2023.

(TPS) The Israel Defense Forces evacuated Rantisi Hospital in the Gaza Strip and chose not to target Hamas terrorists leaving with civilians on foot and in cars and ambulances, military officials said on Saturday. The decision was made to avoid harming Gazan noncombatants.

The IDF said it worked with the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) to later kill the terrorist who held hostage approximately 1,000 Gaza residents at the same hospital.


“Based on precise IDF and ISA intelligence, and with the direction of IDF ground troops, IDF aircraft struck Ahmed Siam, a commander of the Naser Radwan Company of the Hamas terrorist organization. Two days ago, the IDF spokesperson exposed that Siam held hostage approximately 1,000 Gaza residents at the Rantisi Hospital and prevented them from evacuating southwards for their safety,” said the Israeli military.

“Ahmed Siam was killed while hiding in the Al Buraq School, where additional terrorists were found and were killed. Siam demonstrates once again that Hamas uses the civilians of the Gaza Strip as human shields for terror purposes,” added the IDF.

The head of the IDF’s Coordination and Liaison Administration for Gaza, Col. Moshe Tetro, said on Saturday that “there is no shooting at [Shifa Hospital] and there is no siege. The east side of the hospital remains open. Additionally, we can coordinate [with] anyone who wants to leave the hospital safely.”

Nevertheless, IDF Spokesperson Lt. Col. (res.) Peter Lerner said on Saturday that hospitals would have to be evacuated in order to go after Hamas.

Maj. (Res.) Shay, an operations officer in the Givati Brigade, stated: “Our mission is to destroy Hamas by reaching its infrastructure and leaders and making sure that Oct. 7 never happens again.

“We’ve seen hundreds of terrorists in underground facilities, in schools, mosques and clinics,” said Shay. “We were in the security quarter in Gaza. We saw a rocket launching site and rocket manufacturing facility along with a tunnel entrance right next to a school.”

A Givati Brigade unit reached the Rantisi Hospital this week and had been asking civilians to leave for three full days, calling the hospital director and distributing pamphlets, said Shay. The unit eventually realized Hamas was holding hostages in the facility.

At this point, soldiers approached the hospital, placing themselves at risk, to create an exit route for Gazan civilians.

“For me, as the operations officer in the command room, I can tell you clearly, we saw terrorists in the hospital and among those evacuating from the hospital. They were using the civilians as a human shield,” said Shay.

“We had a huge dilemma. We looked to identify terrorists in the hospital, trying to figure out if we could use snipers, but we decided not to, firstly to avoid panic and also because it was so hard for us to identify,” he added.

“The overall decision was that attempting to reach terrorists in the hospital would do more harm than good,” said Shay. So, the IDF allowed Hamas operatives to leave with civilians.

Terrorists still shot at those evacuating, according to Shay.

Meanwhile, IDF ground troops killed numerous terrorists and struck infrastructure and weapons belonging to Hamas’s Zabra Tel Elhua Battalion.

Israeli soldiers also conducted raids that included extensive battles in the southern area of Sheikh Ijlin, in western Gaza City, where a significant number of Hamas terrorists were located.

“Since the beginning of the ground operation, the IDF has taken control of 11 military posts belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization,” the IDF stated Saturday.

Israeli troops identified and neutralized a suspicious vehicle rigged with explosives in a crucial transit area. They also discovered and destroyed an underground tunnel near a school. Forces identified a terrorist cell and directed aircraft to strike, eliminating the threat.

The Israeli Navy conducted operations against Hamas in northern Gaza, striking infrastructure and weapons depots. IDF infantry identified targets within the Al-Shati Camp, directing naval forces to execute strikes.

Also on Saturday, the IDF and Shin Bet said they eliminated some 20 Gaza-based terrorists who orchestrated attacks in Judea and Samaria and Israel proper.

On Saturday night, the IDF announced that five additional soldiers had been killed in action in Gaza, bringing the death toll since the launch of the ground operation two weeks ago to more than 40.

Meanwhile, on Israel’s northern border, IDF fighter jets struck terror infrastructure belonging to Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Sirens signaled a potential hostile aircraft intrusion, but no breach was confirmed. A rocket launched towards Moshav Margaliot fell in an open area, prompting IDF artillery fire at the source in Lebanon. Additionally, an Israeli drone hit a launch site that had targeted an IDF aircraft near the northern border.

In a televised speech on Saturday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah stated, “There are two incidents that are getting bigger, the first is the Israeli aggression against civilians in Gaza and the second is the heroic and large response by the Palestinian resistance against the enemy forces.

“Those who can stop the aggression are those who manage it–the United States. Those who manage, decide and conduct this battle are in the [Biden] administration. And all of the pressure should be directed at the Americans,” said Nasrallah.

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Yaakov Lappin is a military and strategic affairs correspondent. He also conducts research and analysis for defense think tanks, and is the Israel correspondent for IHS Jane's Defense Weekly. His book, The Virtual Caliphate, explores the online jihadist presence.