Both footage released by the Israeli Defence Forces and reporting by other outlets in recent days have exposed plainly Hamas’ strategy of firing and storing rockets in civilian areas – particularly schools, hospitals and mosques. Also coming to light through the release of video clips are the efforts Israel has tried to take in order to minimise civilian casualties.
We include below a number of images and videos everyone should see if they want to understand the realities of the Gaza conflict- they make it clear that Hamas operates amongst its civilian population and employs them as human shields, while the IDF has gone to great lengths to avoid harming innocents.
Footage released by the IDF shows rockets being launched from a cemetery, a water tower in the centre of Gaza City, and an area near to multiple houses.
Another video shows the firing of rockets from within the grounds of the Abu Nur school in Gaza.
In further evidence of Hamas using civilian infrastructure and civilians as human shields, a different video shows two suspected Hamas terrorists using a Red Crescent ambulance as cover to flee from battle.
Furthermore, in addition to the three instances of rockets being found in UN run schools – the most recent instance being yesterday – the IDF has found weapons stored in various other non-military, civilian structures. Pictures confirm rifles, RPGs, rockets, and explosives are being hidden within houses and other buildings.
Meanwhile, evidence is mounting that Hamas has been using Al-Shifa hospital – Gaza’s largest – as its command centre, a clear violation of the laws of war.
The Washington Post‘s William Booth wrote that Al-Shifa has “become a de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders, who can be seen in the hallways and offices.” The Elder of Ziyon blog told of how journalists have been forbidden from reporting on Hamas’ use of the hospital under threats and intimidation by Hamas’ armed wing (something covered further by AIJAC’s Gabrielle Debinski here).
Meanwhile, a graphic from the IDF shows that an errant rocket intended to hit Israel had hit the Al-Shifa hospital in addition to another rocket that landed in Gaza’s Shati refugee camp, leading to ten deaths in total, including several children (the IDF speculates that over 100 Palestinian rockets in the recent conflict have landed inside Gaza). As top Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff noted, the false claim that Israel was responsible for these attacks, was then used by Hamas as a reason to repudiate a ceasefire and return to firing large barrages of rockets.
In addition to using Al-Shifa hospital as an operational headquarters, Hamas fighters had also been firing from the Al-Wafa hospital in the Shejaiyeh neighbourhood – where intense battles between the IDF and Hamas took place. After multiple warnings to evacuate the hospital, and days of consideration, the IDF launched an airstrike on the facilities – but not before being absolutely certain the hospital was empty of innocent patients and medical staff.
A short video released by the IDF shows militants firing from the hospital. The clip also includes voice recordings of two phone calls made by the IDF to confirm that the hospital was empty before being targeted. The second conversation went as follows:
Operator: You’ve spoke to the hospital director since we spoke this morning?
Gazan contact: I spoke to him and he said there are no medical staff and no injured people. He closed the hospital and locked all the doors; there is no way to enter.
Operator: But you spoke to (***) and he said there is no one there?
Gazan contact: No one is there.
IDF Operator: It is important to clarify because they (Hamas) are attacking our troops from there and they are now inside the hospital. International law requires us to keep our soldiers and Israeli citizens safe and to prevent any shooting or firing of rockets from there
Gazan contact: Everything is ok. I will clarify this.
The clip then proceeds to show the Israeli airstrike on the building, triggering secondary explosions – an indication that rockets and other weaponry was being stored in the hospital.
Such footage reveals the lengths to which the IDF has gone to prevent civilian deaths while operating in very difficult circumstances due to Hamas’ deliberate use of civilians and civil institutions as shields for its military operations. These images and videos are ample evidence to refute claims that are often made – one being the absurd assertion that Israel is indiscriminately targeting hospitals. If Hamas fighters use a hospital as a base to fire from, and store rockets there, as clearly happened at the Al-Wafa hospital, it becomes a legitimate military target under international law – especially if it is empty of patients, staff and other civilians.
Unfortunately, these clips rarely find their way into news reports, often leaving viewers with a de-contextualised and skewed picture of what is happening in Gaza.