AP Loses Way in Shifa Tunnels: Drops U.S. Intelligence Findings Confirming Hamas Command Center

With Hamas’ regrouping at Shifa sparking a renewed Israeli military operation at the site, the Gaza City hospital is back in the headlines. Meanwhile, the storied Associated Press, which boasts that it has historically “gone to great lengths, overcome great obstacles — and, too often, made great sacrifices — to ensure that the news was reported quickly, accurately and factually, in a balanced and unbiased way,” seems to have lost its way somewhere in the terror tunnels under Shifa Hospital.
Thus, AP coverage in recent days has repeatedly sought to discredit Israeli information on Hamas’ use of the hospital as a command center while completely ignoring independent U.S. intelligence findings which reached the very same conclusion.
For instance, AP’s Wafaa Shurafa and Samy Magdy selectively reported yesterday (“Palestinians describe bodies and ambulances crushed in Israel’s ongoing raid at Gaza’s main hospital“):
After claiming that Hamas maintained an elaborate command center there, Israeli forces months ago exposed a single tunnel leading to a few underground rooms.
March 20 coverage by Shurafa and Magdy likewise ignored U.S. intelligence confirming Israeli information about Hamas’ command center under the hospital. Omitting the American intelligence findings, AP misled (“Heavy fighting rages around Gaza’s biggest hospital as Israel raids it for a second day“):
The army last raided Shifa Hospital in November after claiming that Hamas maintained an elaborate command center within and beneath the facility. The military revealed a tunnel leading to some underground rooms, as well as weapons it said were found inside the hospital. However, the evidence fell short of the earlier claims, and critics accused the army of recklessly endangering the lives of civilians.
The same language also appears in a second March 20 item (“The Latest: Netanyahu remains set on Rafah ground invasion. . . .”).
It’s striking that AP reports the unsubstantiated claims of unnamed critics accusing Israel of reckless endangerment of civilians while neglecting to report U.S. intelligence findings consistent with Israeli information citing the Hamas command center and a warehouse for hostages below Shifa.
Indeed, as The New York Times reported the beginning of this year (“Hamas Used Gaza Hospital as a Command Center, U.S. Intelligence Says“):

U.S. spy agencies believe that Hamas and another Palestinian group fighting Israel used Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza to command forces and hold some hostages, according to new American intelligence declassified on Tuesday. . . 

But the American intelligence assessment has remained firm that the hospital was used by Hamas. The new intelligence represents the most current American assessment, officials said.

The complex was used by both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to command forces fighting against Israel, according to the intelligence.

While the spy agencies provided no visual evidence, a U.S. official said they were confident in their assessment because it was based on information collected by Israel and America’s own intelligence gathered independently.

Previously, on Nov. 16, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told reporters in a press briefing:

As I said the other day, we have our own intelligence that convinces us that Hamas is using Al-Shifa as a command-and-control node and — and most likely as well as a storage facility — and that they were sheltering themselves in a hospital, using the hospital as a shield against military action and placing the patients and medical staff at greater risk.  We are still convinced of the soundness of that intelligence.
There was no need for AP to go “to great lengths, [to] overcome great obstacles” in order to uncover and note the U.S. intelligence findings in recent coverage of Shifa Hospital. Indeed, AP itself reported Jan. 3:

The U.S. is “confident” that Palestinian militant groups used Gaza’s largest hospital to hold “at least a few” hostages seized during their bloody Oct. 7, 2023, attack and to house command infrastructure, an American intelligence assessment declassified Tuesday and shared by a U.S. official found.

The assessment offers the firmest U.S. support for Israeli claims about the Shifa hospital complex, which was raided by Israeli forces in November in an operation decried by global humanitarian organizations and some members of President Joe Biden’ s party.  . . . 

“The U.S. Intelligence Community is confident in its judgment on this topic and has independently corroborated information on HAMAS and PIJ’s use of the hospital complex for a variety of purposes related to its campaign against Israel,” the assessment states. It continues that it believes the groups “used the al-Shifa hospital complex and sites beneath it to house command infrastructure, exercise certain command and control activities, store some weapons, and hold at least a few hostages.”

The U.S. believes that Hamas members evacuated days before Israel raided the complex on Nov. 15 and that they destroyed sensitive documents and electronics before Israeli troops entered the facility.

U.S. officials had previously pointed to classified intelligence, obtained independently from the Israelis, to offer support for Israel’s raid.

“I can confirm for you that we have information that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad use some hospitals in the Gaza Strip, including al-Shifa, and tunnels underneath them to conceal and to support their military operations and to hold hostages,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters a day before Israel entered the hospital.

Why wouldn’t any reporting in recent days on the quality of Israel’s evidence regarding Hamas’ presence in Shifa not include the highly relevant and independent U.S. intelligence findings? It’s not the case that the AP considers the American viewpoint on Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip unnewsworthy. To the contrary, while ignoring the U.S. findings on Shifa, the March 20 story on Shifa did go further afield to note U.S. “concern over attacking Rafah,” in the southern part of the territory.
“We are transparent about our news values and principles, which guide all AP journalists,” insists AP after noting the great lengths, obstacles and sacrifices the agency says it has overcome to achieve accurate and honest news in its 175 years of service. But by covering up U.S. intelligence conclusions corroborating Israeli findings, AP sacrifices balanced and unbiased reporting on the altar of anti-Israel partisanship. And what about AP’s vaunted transparency when it comes to the independent U.S. intelligence about the Hamas command center? Like a Hamas weapons cache hidden away in Shifa’s MRI ward, deliberate and deceptive concealment ironically finds a home in a place of supposedly total transparency.

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