Is Hamas Shooting At Palestinians Trying To Comply With Israel’s Evacuation Order?
The Israel Defence Forces has released an audio recording – just one of several pieces of alleged evidence to support the IDF’s claims that Hamas uses civilians of Gaza as human shields or operates in a way that shows flagrant disregard for civilian safety.
In the recording, a member of the military intelligence directorate’ can be heard calling a Palestinian man in the impoverished enclave to pursuade him to flee south. But the recipient of the call raises concern over Hamas blocking roads on the route south.
The man adds that Hamas is shooting at Palestinians in Gaza attempting to comply with the Israeli evacuation order. The claim isn’t new as Israel has repeatedly accused the Palestinian militant group of deliberately shielding themselves behind the territory’s civilian population.
According to the Hague-based International Criminal Court, the war crime of using human shields is defined as “utilising the presence of a civilian or other protected person to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations”.
Is There Independent Evidence To Back Up The Claims?
Israel claims Hamas has placed parts of its extensive military tunnel system and command network under Gaza’s civilian objects including the Dar al-Shifa Hospital. Anecdotal and other evidence does suggest the group has used civilian objects such as schools and hospitals.
During the 2014 conflict, the UN reported the discovery of weapons inside a couple of UN schools. Complicating the issue, however, is the nature of Gaza. As the territory involves a dense urban environment, it is perhaps not surprising that Hamas operates in civilian areas.
What Did An Interrogation Of Hamas’s Members Find?
International law suggests that even if an armed force is improperly utilising civilian objects to protect itself from harm, it’s still essential for its opponent to shield civilians from disproportionate harm. Why is Hamas using medical institutions?
“[So] you won’t strike them,” said Amer Abu Awash, a member of Hamas’s Nukhba force, during an interrogation. Last week, the IDF and the Shin Bet domestic security agency released footage they said was from the questioning of two Hamas members who they said had infiltrated Israel.
Abu Awash was asked about the connection between hospitals in Gaza and the “metro”, described as Hamas’s tunnel network. He replied: “Most of them are hidden in the hospitals … For example … Shifa [Hospital] is not small,” adding “there are underground levels”.
Polls trying to understand Hamas’s attitude towards Palestinian civilians suggest the militant group enjoys considerable support. But Amnesty International in 2022 described Hamas’s rule in the densely populated Gaza Strip as authoritarian in nature.