Soldiers of the IDF's elite Shaldag unit completed nine days of combat at Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City last weekend, with a large explosion of part of the underground tunnel network discovered beneath the hospital, just an hour before the cease-fire took effect on Friday morning. The military says the operation was successful, although part of the tunnel under the hospital was likely not neutralized.
Meanwhile, the forces detained five key members of Hamas's Nukhba force at the request of Shin Bet. Their interrogation greatly aided ground operations, and along with thousands of different combat tools, the soldiers also seized 70 Hamas military vehicles within the premises of the medical center. One of them, an ambulance used for terror purposes, contained suitcases full of investigation materials of Hamas members suspected of collaborating with Israel in the past decade and interrogated by the terror army.
Shaldag's commando unit was among the first to jump into combat in the surrounding area on the morning of October 7, with the first group of soldiers landing near Kibbutz Be'eri at 8:30am, directly into intense fire against about 160 Nukhba terrorists already operating inside the kibbutz. The rest of the unit arrived later in the morning to other combat hotspots, including the battle over the Gaza Division base at Re'im Camp. In total, about 250 Shaldag soldiers were deployed to the fierce combat of Black Saturday, most via nine Air Force helicopters.
The unit has never lost soldiers in direct operational activity (a soldier was killed in Lebanon in an operational accident) and on the day of Hamas's invasion into Israel, no less than five Shaldag troops and officers fell, with three more in ground operations and two others who previously served in it and were part of other units at the time of their death.
On the first day, the soldiers eliminated over 100 terrorists, and in total, they led 73 different operations since the start of the war, meaning in some cases two operations were conducted simultaneously - most of them in Gaza.
Shaldag soldiers described the Nukhba terrorists' combat soldiering level as relatively low in direct encounters with them but noted three strengths of the thousands of terrorists who invaded Israel: rapid mobility, strong fortification and a large amount of weaponry that enabled them to fight for long hours. Conversely, Shaldag troops stormed in some cases even after running out of ammunition, and some paid for it with their lives.
During ground operations in Gaza, Shaldag soldiers killed about 200 terrorists, including those encountered by teams joining the initial spearheads that penetrated north of the Strip with Givati and the 401st Brigade, utilizing Shaldag's unique capabilities in drone, tunnel and precise fire operations.
During the operation at Al Shifa Hospital, the soldiers reached the basement levels of the complex and found combat materials in all its wings, alongside operational command posts of Hamas leaders with evidence of the presence of top terror organization officials and Israeli hostages. Among the abundant intelligence found by Shaldag was a thick book used as Hamas's intelligence report on the IDF for 2022-2023. Open screens left by Hamas in the hospital also revealed documentation published by Shin Bet from the interrogations of Nukhba activists who infiltrated Israel.
The tunnel network from the hospital led to the homes of senior Hamas officials, some with underground entrances identified by tracker dogs. "We initially operated in a very complex environment, where Hamas brought 45,000 Gazans to the hospital courtyards while Hamas operatives disguised themselves as patients or doctors," said Shaldag officers.
"Real medical teams were not allowed to enter Hamas's military command rooms by the organization's operatives, who also covered some of the security cameras. Eventually, the upper part of the hospital was used militarily while underground were offices for senior officials' extended stays. During the operation, we provided assistance to the hospital with equipment and even a Shaldag soldier who is also a cardiologist treated one of the Gazans," the officers added.
The IDF noted on Monday that among the combat materials located by Shaldag's raid in Al Shifa were weapons and magazines, grenades, combat equipment disguised in medical suitcases and anti-tank mines.
"In the long and complex raid at Al Shifa Hospital, the forces used advanced technologies in the underground terrain and located a tunnel shaft that exposed the route of a terror tunnel beneath the hospital," it was reported.