The Israeli military’s seizure of Shifa Hospital, the Gaza Strip’s largest medical complex, is central to the military strategy at the heart of the ground invasion: Eradicate Hamas and free roughly 240 hostages taken during the Oct. 7 surprise attack.

That strategy has unfolded over the past three weeks as more than 40,000 Israeli soldiers encircled Gaza City, where Israeli officials say Hamas commanders were concentrated. The soldiers then attacked fighters and bunkers, all while targeting a vast tunnel network that Israeli officials say enables Hamas forces to hide and carry out operations. Israeli officials also assessed that striking so deeply in the heart of Gaza City would pressure Hamas to reach a deal on hostage releases.

Israel has long accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields in the densely populated Gaza Strip, and says the terrorist group positioned underground military facilities near homes, schools, mosques and hospitals throughout Gaza. Shifa became Exhibit A in this narrative, as the Israeli military claimed Hamas used a vast maze of tunnels underneath the hospital as a base.