Many see Israel as a genocidal aggressor and one of the chief explanations is the argument that that there is no way Hamas would seriously endanger its population by recklessly leaving them as Human Shields. Surely this is all a cover story by Israel. After all – ‘normal’ people would never do such a thing.
People would be wrong….and it is not me saying it…. NATO (of which Israel is not a member state) said it clearly in a 2019 report entitled: Hamas’ use of human shields in Gaza
Its Executive Summary states:
Hamas, an Islamist militant group and the de facto governing authority of the Gaza Strip, has been using human shields in conflicts with Israel since 2007. According to the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the war crime of using human shields encompasses “utilizing the presence of a civilian or other protected person to render certain points, areas, or military forces immune from military operations.” Hamas has launched rockets, positioned military-related infrastructure-hubs and routes, and engaged the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) from, or in proximity to, residential and commercial areas.
The strategic logic of human shields has two components. It is based on an awareness of Israel’s desire to minimise collateral damage, and of Western public opinion’s sensitivity towards civilian casualties. If the IDF uses lethal force and causes an increase in civilian casualties, Hamas can utilise that as a lawfare tool: it can accuse Israel of committing war crimes, which could result in the imposition of a wide array of sanctions. Alternatively, if the IDF limits its use of military force in Gaza to avoid collateral damage, Hamas will be less susceptible to Israeli attacks, and thereby able to protect its assets while continuing to fight. Moreover, despite the Israeli public’s high level of support for the Israeli political and military leadership during operations, civilian casualties are one of the friction points between Israeli left-wing and right-wing supporters, with the former questioning
the outcomes of the operation.
In the body of the report it goes on to say:
“Hamas’ growing strategic distress in the face of recent geopolitical developments will probably push the organisation towards a more pragmatic strategy in the near future. However, the movement is simultaneously preparing itself for yet another round of armed conflict with Israel. If this indeed happens, and in light of the success of the human shield practice, there is every reason to believe Hamas will continue resorting to the use of civilians as human shields…
Militant and terror organisations in the Gaza Strip have built an extensive military infrastructure with corresponding capacities. …This infrastructure is concealed in private homes, tunnels, and public buildings such as mosques among 1.85 million Gazans.”
It cites 11 recorded events as examples between 2004-2014 and it quotes multiple statements from leaders of Hamas, for example:
Khaled Mashal, Head of the Hamas Political Bureau (1996-2017) “If you will foolishly decide to enter Gaza, we will fight you. You will face not only thousands of our combatants, but also a million and a half of our population, driven by the desire to become martyrs.”
Lastly, it quotes a Ministry of the Interior of Gaza spokesman in 2014 saying:: 2014: ““We call those who evacuated their houses to return immediately and stay there…Israel’s warnings are nothing but psychological warfare… by leaving your houses you assist the enemy to fulfil its plans, that is, annihilating your belongings and houses.”
Why is this relevant?
People have chosen to accuse Israel of genocide a charge that I as an Israeli and a human am shocked by. NATO by their own word showed exactly the plan Hamas would use to cynically exploit their own population and they are delivering exactly according to the playbook.
There have been two distinct phases of this war – the horrendous attack and the murder, rape and kidnap on the 7th October and thereafter the planned and deliberate use of its own population as a way to protect itself against the inevitable reaction from the IDF.
Hate has driven us to this place and four months on millions are suffering as a result. It is tragic but Hamas must be defeated and be prevented from being able to do this again.
You can read the report yourself at https://stratcomcoe.org/cuploads/pfiles/hamas_human_shields.pdf