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Undercover Israeli troops dressed as medical staff kill three militants in West Bank hospital raid, officials say

<i>Raneen Sawafta/Reuters</i><br/>
Raneen Sawafta/Reuters

By Abeer Salman and Christian Edwards, CNN

Jerusalem (CNN) — Israeli special forces, dressed as civilians and medical staff, infiltrated the Ibn Sina hospital in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin on Tuesday and killed three Palestinian men, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials.

CCTV footage shared on social media appeared to show around a dozen commandos disguised as nurses, women in hijabs, and others, with one pushing a wheelchair and another carrying a baby car seat, as they stormed a hospital corridor carrying assault weapons.

The hospital said the three men were sleeping at the time of the attack. One of those killed was claimed by Hamas as a member; the other two were claimed by Islamic Jihad, another militant group. Hamas said all three were also Jenin Brigade fighters, an umbrella group of armed Palestinian factions in the West Bank city.

The disguised special forces “infiltrated the hospital individually, headed to the third floor, and assassinated the young men,” Palestinian state news agency WAFA reported, citing sources from inside the hospital.

While Israel’s war has raged in Gaza for nearly four months, the conflict has also spilled over into the occupied West Bank. At least 381 Palestinians have been killed there since the Hamas attacks in Israel on October 7, with residents facing increasing restrictions and settler violence.

But Tuesday’s killings represents one of the boldest Israeli raids since the war began, and experts have warned the IDF’s attack may have violated international humanitarian law.

The IDF said it targeted Hamas fighter Mohammed Jalamneh who “had recently been involved in promoting significant terrorist activity” and was “hiding” in the Ibn Sina hospital. It said he was planning an imminent terror attack “inspired by the October 7 massacre” and that he was found with a pistol.

Two brothers linked to Islamic Jihad, Mohammed and Basel Al-Ghazawi, were also killed, the IDF said.

The IDF said the three men had been “hiding in hospitals and using them as a base for planning terrorist activities and carrying out terror attacks” and were cynically using hospitals as shelters and “human shields.” Hamas has previously denied such allegations.

Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir shared the CCTV footage on social media and praised the raid.

“I congratulate and strengthen the naval commando forces of the Israeli police on their impressive operation last night in cooperation with the IDF and the Shin Bet in the Jenin refugee camp, which led to the elimination of three terrorists,” Ben Gvir said alongside the video on X.

Hamas’s military wing, the Al Qassam Brigades, claimed Jalamneh as a member and released a photo of him. It said he had been “martyred by the bullets of a special force from the occupation army that infiltrated Ibn Sina Hospital in Jenin with his comrades Mohammed and Basil Ayman Al-Ghazawi,” calling them “fighting martyrs.”

The Ibn Sina Hospital said Basil Al-Ghazawi had been receiving treatment for injuries sustained in a rocket explosion inside a Jenin cemetery in October.

There were no reports of other casualties in the raid.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health condemned the attack and called on the United Nations General Assembly to provide the necessary protection for medical treatment centers and emergency crews.

“This crime comes after dozens of crimes committed by the occupation forces against treatment centers and crews. International law provides general and special protection for civilian sites, including hospitals,” the ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

Since the start of the war in Gaza, Israel has faced fierce criticism for launching attacks in and around hospitals, which are protected under international humanitarian law. But Tuesday’s raid did not involve an attack against the hospital itself, meaning the protected status of hospitals is not at issue, experts said.

Commenting on the raid Tuesday, the IDF’s Chief of the General Staff Herzi Halevi claimed the men targeted were involved in a terrorist cell planning a “serious attack” on Israel civilians and said the force would not allow hospitals to become a “cover for terrorism.”

“We do not want to turn hospitals into battlefields,” Halevi said, “But we are even more determined not to allow hospitals in Gaza, Judea and Samaria, Lebanon, above ground or in tunnel shafts and tunnels under hospitals, to become a place that is a cover for terrorism, and one that allows terrorists to stash weapons, to rest, to go out to carry out an attack.”

However, experts have warned that the IDF may have violated international law by the means it used to infiltrate the hospital. In disguising themselves as civilians and medical staff, both of whom have protected status, Israeli troops may have resorted to perfidy, or deception.

“The Israeli forces involved in the operation were dressed in civilian clothing and at least some were dressed as medical personnel, who enjoy protection under the law of armed conflict,” Aurel Sari, a law professor at the University of Exeter in the UK, told CNN. “The killing of the three Palestinian men by Israeli forces dressed as medical personnel as part of a single attack therefore violates the prohibition of resort to perfidy.”

International humanitarian law also prohibits the killing of the wounded and sick who, like medical staff and civilians, enjoy protected status. “Provided they abstained from any acts of hostilities, killing them was a violation of the law of armed conflict,” Sari added.

Asked whether planning an attack against Israel constituted an act of hostility, Sari said if the three men were members of organized armed groups, they were “liable to status-based targeting.” But Israel’s disguising of its soldiers and killing of a reportedly wounded person means the attack could nonetheless have violated international law.

“The killing of the three Palestinians could have been lawful, in principle, if they were militants. However, not if they were wounded or through resort to perfidy,” he said.

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