How did Hamas abuse its own civilian sites as cover for its military operations?

The Law of Armed Conflict not only prohibits targeting an enemy’s civilians; it also requires parties to an armed conflict to distinguish their combatant forces from their own civilians, and not to base operations in or near civilian structures, especially protected sites such as schools, medical facilities and places of worship. Despite the clear proscriptions of international law, the intentional abuse of civilian areas for military advantage is central to Hamas’ battlefield strategy. Hamas’ strategy was two-fold: (1) to take advantage of the sensitivity of the IDF to civilian casualties on the Palestinian side, in an attempt to deter the IDF from attacking legitimate military targets; and (2) where the IDF did attack, to wield an excellent propaganda weapon against Israel, featuring civilian casualties as well as damage to homes and public institutions. In other words, Hamas chose to base its operations in civilian areas not in spite of, but because of, the likelihood of substantial harm to civilians. Hamas operatives regularly fired rockets into Israel from within or near their own residential and public buildings, including schools, mosques and hospitals. During the Gaza operation, Hamas continued to launch attacks from densely populated areas and protected sites. In fact, as IDF forces advanced into Gaza, Hamas began relying even more heavily than before on rocket and mortar launches from the midst of urban centers. Hamas’ abuse of civilian neighborhoods resulted in significant destruction. In conducting rocket attacks from within civilian sites, Hamas committed grave breaches of the principle of distinction, as well as the obligation not to put its own civilians at risk.

For more information visit Gaza Facts website.