Many commentators discussing the recent conflict in Gaza do not realise that Hamas’ indiscriminate rocket fire has meant that residents of Gaza, as well as Israelis, have been affected by Hamas’ aggression. A sizeable minority of all the rockets that terrorist groups launched from Gaza at Israel never make it – and instead land inside the crowded Gaza Strip, where they can frequently cause considerable damage, deaths and injuries.
Moreover, these Palestinian victims of rocket fire originating from Gaza are generally added to the list of total Palestinian casualties – which are generally attributed to Israeli military actions in international media reports (for more on the problems with these widely-used casualty numbers see here and here).
In the last Gaza conflict in 2012, there were similar instances of inaccurate reports. One of the most widely-publicised and dramatic cases of Palestinian civilian casualties during the conflict, the death of 4 year-old Mahmoud Sadallah (who following his death was featured in numerous news photos, including one where he was shown being kissed by a weeping Egyptian Prime Minister), turned out to have been a victim of a rocket from Gaza that fell short.
In July of this year, a total of 280 Hamas rockets fell short of Israel and landed within the Gaza Strip. These rockets have dire implications for innocent civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, just as they do in Israel. Moreover, Hamas has not invested in bomb shelters or systems to adequately protect civilians in Gaza.
Especially in recent days, a large fraction of the rockets fired at Israel have fallen short. On August 2, 86 rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israel by Hamas; of those, 58 landed in Israeli territory and only 6 were intercepted, meaning more than a dozen struck Gaza.
As noted by Steven Emerson, Hamas officials attempt to hide this reality from civilians in Gaza and the international media, with one stating recently: “Rest assured, our missiles accurately target the homes of the Israelis and the Zionists.”
But as Emerson points out, “Katyusha and Grad type rockets are by their very nature indiscriminate. Rockets from Gaza have hit two Palestinian West Bank cities, Hebron and Bethlehem, during the conflict.”
AIJAC’s Robert Ellenhorn, in last week’s blog post, detailed reports of how a rocket intended for Israel hit the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, along with another rocket aimed at Israel landing in Gaza’s Shati Refugee Camp, leading to a total of ten deaths, including a number of children. Prominent Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff noted that the misfire led to an escalation of the conflict:
“The explosion Monday at northern Gaza’s Shati Refugee Camp could easily become the incident that changes the face of the current Israel-Hamas conflict.”
“The incident, apparently born of a misfire of an Islamic Jihad rocket, prompted Hamas to embark on a series of fatal attacks on Israeli targets later Monday, leaving numerous Israeli Army casualties.”
“The IDF made plain that it had nothing to do with the incident. Yoav Mordechai, the IDF’s Coordinator of activities in the territories, said, in reports that were also carried by official Palestinian media, that Islamic Jihad had tried to fire rockets at Ashkelon, and one had fallen in the kindergarten, and the second in the outpatient clinic of Gaza’s Shifa Hospital.”
[Covers the period from July 8 – July 31]
The World Tribune reports that the Israeli military has estimated that more than 10% of rockets fired by Hamas fell short and landed in Gaza:
“In at least one case, a medium-range M-75, based on Iran’s Fajr-5 rocket, exploded during launch. The rocket contains a conventional warhead of at least 100 kilograms and at least seven Palestinians were killed.”
“In a briefing on July 29, military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said Hamas rockets fell on civilian facilities in the Gaza Strip. He cited an accidental Hamas missile strike on Shifa Hospital in Gaza City and the Shati Refugee Camp just outside the city.”
“Hamas has denied any accidental rocket fire on the Gaza Strip. But Palestinian sources said numerous rocket launches ended up falling in Gaza communities and that scores of people have been killed or injured.”
“Military sources said the failed Hamas launches increased amid heavy Israeli air and artillery strikes throughout the Gaza Strip. They said the failed launches reflected poorly-assembled rockets as well as the rush to load and fire projectiles before they are spotted by Israeli aircraft.”
Hamas has expressed its wanton disregard for the lives of innocent civilians in both Gaza and Israel in numerous ways. Perhaps the most callous is the way it kills civilians in Gaza with misfired rockets, and then blames Israel for their deaths.