In a comment to my previous question: Why is there no call for Hamas to protect and reduce civilian casualties? a comment was posted:

how can Hamas protect the civilians considering the prolonged blockade of Gaza and its extremely limited means of protection and defense in the face of Israeli overwhelming onslaught against Gaza?

I will concede it is a valid concern.

Those supporting Hamas have said:

the severe total siege against Gaza that is in place now for almost a decade disables Hamas from building effective shelters for a 1.8 million population trapped in a small area of land against relentless Israelis attacks that come from all directions. So it is unwise to expect Hamas which is just a popular resistance by an impoverished people against the 4th largest world military power to protect the civilians against relentless rain of death and destruction by the Zionist army, navy and air force!

So for this question assume the claims of Hamas are largely accurate that this war is actually the result of aggression by Israel and that they are not using human shields. It would be in the interest of those civilians being caught in the cross fire that it be made plain to the international community. What actions can Hamas take to show to the international community that it is seriously attempting to mitigate this problem and trying to step up to protect the innocents that are becoming victims in this war, without surrendering to Israel?

Please note - "with out surrendering to Israel" should be assumed to include giving up the fight, stopping its attacks, or accepting the terms being imposed on it by Israel or anything along the spirit of that. And any answer saying there is nothing they can do should adequately explain why.

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    Good question, but note that if it is established that Israel's aim is to collectively punish people of Gaza for having elected Hamas and choosing resistance against the ongoing occupation instead of surrendering, then there could be really no conceivable way of protecting civilians as they are all considered legitimate targets by Israel. In fact the way Israeli military conduct the operations provides ample evidence that this is really the case. What we have in Gaza is actually cold blood mass murder of an entire population by a formidable military force that acts with total impunity.
    – infatuated
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 18:10
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    @infatuated that is both factually incorrect and not relevant to Chad's question.
    – Publius
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 18:24
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    You answered it yourself. The best way for Hamas to show that it cares about its citizens is to stop turning Gaza into a war zone by attacking Israel. Accept defeat and move on, you're not "surrendering" to Israel.
    – Shahar
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 20:30
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    If surrender doesn't count, and judging by the last question you asked, "not using human shields" isn't what your looking for, then the only thing that's really left is evacuating civilians from the cities, or magically becoming a better fighting force than Israel Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 20:34
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    If that is the answer feel free to post it. However, imagine a world where Israel is actually the only aggressor and Hamas is not using human shields but Israel is making it appear as though they were. What can they do to demonstrate that they are trying to step up as a leader and potentially bring in international support? That is the real question. Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 20:35

1 Answer 1


Aside from the danger inherent to initiating a military conflict, Hamas endangers its civilians in a number of ways not necessary (or legal) to engage in the conflict. For Hamas to demonstrate that it is trying to mitigate Palestinian civilian casualties, it would need to publicly and substantially end these practices.

Some such practices include:

  • Storing weapons in civilian areas. That makes these areas targets for Israeli strikes, and if the weapons detonate, that secondary explosion can injure people and damage civilian structures. To demonstrate that Hamas is protecting Palestinian civilians, Hamas would have to move these weapons to safe areas.
  • Firing said weapons from civilian areas. In order to stop rocket fire from entering its territory, Israel will sometimes strike the locations of rocket attacks. When these attacks are coming from heavily populated areas, these strikes can injure and kill civilians.
  • Firing weapons at or near hospitals. Aside from the normal risks associated with Hamas firing weapons from civilian areas, the damage caused to hospitals means that there are fewer places to treat injured Palestinians.
  • Encouraging Palestinian civilians to become human shields. Though Israel will sometimes call off strikes that threaten civilians, Israel will still sometimes strike areas if there are civilians in the area. Encouraging civilians to go to areas which Israel announces may become targets endangers those civilians. Instead, Hamas should actively encourage Palestinians to leave areas that Israel says it may strike.

Hamas could also take other active measures to mitigate civilian casualties. Your question mentions that Hamas does not build shelters for Palestinians, but they do have the building materials to. Hamas uses child labor to build tunnels, a practice which has killed dozens of children. They use these tunnels to launch terrorist attacks and kidnap Israeli soldiers. To protect civilians, Hamas could reallocate building materials allocated towards these tunnels, and instead build shelters that they place away from their military activities. This would also help protect Palestinian children, who might otherwise die building the tunnels.

Though Israel does have substantially more military power than Hamas, there are a still a number of steps that Hamas could take to reduce Palestinian civilian casualties, both by stopping practices that pose a risk to Palestinian civilians and by taking active measures to move them away and protect them from the violence.


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