Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer on Sunday did not directly answer whether Israel is breaking international law by targeting hospitals in Gaza in its effort to wipe out the Hamas militant group.
In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Finer was asked to address comments by Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani that Israel’s raid on Shifa Hospital was a “crime.”
Hundreds of patients, including 31 premature babies, had to be evacuated from the facility as a result of the fighting. State-run media in Egypt on Monday said at least 28 of those babies had made it into the country.
Finer noted that Shifa is the biggest hospital in Gaza and that several civilians took refuge there during the conflict. “Those lives need to be protected,” he said.
“But we have been equally clear that our intelligence — U.S. intelligence information, not just Israeli intelligence information — suggests that Hamas has used Al Shifa in an unconscionable way, as a command and control facility for the planning of terrorist attacks and the execution of terrorist attacks, and continues to do so,” he added. “That does not, in our view, mean that Israel should conduct airstrikes on the hospital or ground assaults on the hospital.”
Israel released videos on Sunday to back up its decision to raid the hospital, including footage of a tunnel under the hospital grounds that leads to what Israel claims is a door with a firing hole that Hamas allegedly uses to keep Israel’s forces from accessing its underground assets, according to The New York Times. Still, Israel has so far failed to produce evidence that a wider command center was being operated under Shifa, the Times reported.
Finer did not directly say whether Israel’s actions have violated international law, despite being asked several times by NBC’s Kristen Welker.
“What I can say is it is not our position, certainly my position, as a policymaker, to play real-time judge and jury on the question of any particular incident,” Finer said. “When we see things that concern us, we raise them. We have done that during the course of this conflict. We will continue to do that.”
Meanwhile, Finer said negotiations are progressing involving the release of some of the hundreds of hostages that Hamas took during its Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
Over the weekend, several outlets reported that Israel and Hamas were near to making an agreement that would see a temporary pause to the war in exchange for an initial release of 50 hostages.
“I believe we are closer than we have been in quite some time, maybe closer than we have been since the beginning of this process, to getting this deal done,” Finer said.