As Israel steps up its targeting of civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip on the fourth day of an assault that began when it violated a truce on 14 November, and calls up reservists in advance of a possible ground invasion, Israeli officials are distributing a graphic that appears intended to justify in advance the bombing of Gaza hospitals and health facilities.

The graphic published by the Israeli army is a fake hospital sign that purports to show that Hamas leaders hide under hospitals and stockpile weapons there.

Ofir Gendelman, an official spokesman for the Israeli prime minister tweeted the same image in Arabic.

Israeli attacks on hospitals during "Cast Lead"

During "Operation Cast Lead," its savage 2008-2009 assault on Gaza, Israel carried out widespread attacks on hospitals and health facilities. As a 2009 report by European develoment and rights organizations noted:
A World Health Organization (WHO) assessment of 122 health facilities in Gaza revealed that 48% were damaged or destroyed during the offensive: 15 hospitals and 41 primary health care centres were partially damaged; two primary health care centres were destroyed; and 29 ambulances were partially damaged or destroyed.
And during the 2008-2009 invasion, as The Electronic Intifada reported, Israeli forces killed 16 medical rescuers, four in one day alone. Another 57 were injured.

UN investigators find no evidence to back Israeli claims

The UN-commissioned Goldstone report examined the Israeli claims. On page 142, the report says that Israel alleged that:
Hamas systematically used medical facilities, vehicles and uniforms as cover for terrorist operations, in clear violation of the Law of Armed Conflict. This included the extensive use of ambulances bearing the protective emblems of the Red Cross and Crescent ... and the use of hospitals and medical infrastructure as headquarters, situation rooms, command centres and hiding places."
The commission of inquiry investigated the Israeli claims with regard to several hospitals that Israel had bombed, for example the al-Quds hospital in Tal el-Hawa, which had been hit by Israeli white phosphorus shells and high explosives.

It also looked at the flimsy nature of the "evidence" cited by Israel. In the case of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, this was "an interview with a 'Hamas activist' captured by Israel and an Italian newspaper article which in turn bases this assertion on a single anonymous source."

"On the basis of the investigations it has conducted," the Goldstone report said, "the Mission did not find any evidence to support the allegations made by the Israeli Government."

Similarly, the report found no evidence to support frequent Israeli claims that ambulances were misused, and much evidence to contradict that claim. Israel's Magen David Adom, its affiliate with the ICRC, even told the UN investigators that "there was no use of PRCS [Palestinian Red Crescent Society] ambulances for the transport of weapons or ammunition ... [and] there was no misuse of the emblem by PRCS" (page 144).

In short, Israel has never presented any credible evidence to back up its claims, and yet it continues to produce propaganda like the "hospital sign" above to justify its very real crimes against Gaza's already fragile health system.

Just how low can you go?