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It doesn't take long reading about Gaza events and civilian casualties before finding examples of the pro-Israel narrative that those casualties are largely caused by Hamas' propensity to keep its military assets as close as possible to Gaza civilians.

For example, here's a NATO report from 2014

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.

Now, I deliberately took a source, NATO, that one can consider pro-Israel.

My question is however: is this tendency of Hamas to deliberately embed itself in close proximity to civilians also acknowledged by pro-Palestinian groups? Or, better yet, Gaza residents or UN/Red Cross personnel operating in Gaza? Just an acknowledgement of this happening is enough, no need to tie it with an intent to use civilians as human shields.

Yes, Gaza is heavily populated. And, yes, as noted in one answer, this will be an urban battle so civilian buildings will be used, as happens in all city clashes. But, for example, Hamas operating from within or nearby an active school, refugee camp, power station or hospital would seem more deliberate than "well, all of Gaza is full of civilians".

Do any pro-Palestinian sources accept/believe/claim/say Hamas does that?

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    No, it is "fishing" for if this behavior has been acknowledged by people whom one would reasonably consider to be pro-Palestinian (and not instinctively anti-Hamas, one might add which means the Fatah claims wouldn't be as convincing). Certainly, people who survive IDF strikes aimed at Hamas militants in their proximity may have voiced this during interviews. Nov 1, 2023 at 23:30
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    Could you please re-phrase the Question? Nothing whatever to do with the politics, rights or wrong of the situation but the current wording seems to me, anyway, too vague. Did you rather mean, for instance, 'Do any pro-Palestinian sources accept/believe/claim/say Hamas (does that)?' Either way, how might it matter whether that was done specifically to complicate IDF operations? Nov 3, 2023 at 20:20
  • Thanks and I surely agree about the sensitivity… I mean no kind of insistence and if you're prepared to re-phrase it, how would my original suggestion 'Do any pro-Palestinian sources accept/believe/claim/say Hamas (does that)?' not work? Nov 3, 2023 at 20:35
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    @Angriffsreiher I don't think you understood my reply to Fizz very well. I don't care which side the poster of the A backs. I do care that they cite sources that aren't inherently anti-Palestinian (or have a vested interest in making Hamas look bad). Multiple Western articles citing unnamed and unidentified people who "saw things" don't tell us too much. Someone, credibly identified, saying, "yes, my family was killed because Hamas staged next to our refugee camp", that's much stronger evidence, bounty-worthy.. Or the UN. No, I wouldn't expect a pro-Palestine user to post that answer. Nov 8, 2023 at 16:36
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    The (recently) famous workshop under a bedroom was shown on the BBC. Not sure if you could the latter as pro-Palestinian, although many Israelis would say that. bbc.com/news/av/world-middle-east-67362960 Nov 9, 2023 at 7:25

5 Answers 5

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+500

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency has confirmed that Hamas rockets have been found in two of the schools it operates in Gaza:

UNRWA condemns placement of rockets, for a second time, in one of its schools (link)

22 July 2014

Today, in the course of the regular inspection of its premises, UNRWA discovered rockets hidden in a vacant school in the Gaza Strip. As soon as the rockets were discovered, UNRWA staff were withdrawn from the premises, and so we are unable to confirm the precise number of rockets. The school is situated between two other UNRWA schools that currently each accommodate 1,500 internally displaced persons.

UNRWA strongly and unequivocally condemns the group or groups responsible for this flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law.

The Shifa Hospital

It seems the tradition of using hospitals for combat and interrogations goes back to 2007:

During the Fatah–Hamas conflict, Fatah attacked the hospital, drawing Hamas fire from within the building. (Human Rights Watch)

Some injured people brought to the hospital were killed by Hamas militants once inside. A doctor in the hospital reported, “The medical staff are suffering from fear and terror, particularly of the Hamas fighters, who are in every corner of the hospital.” (NIH)

Amnesty International documented in 2014 how the Hamas forces used the abandoned areas of the hospital to abduct, torture, and kill Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel under an operation codenamed “Strangling Necks”: (link)

As well as carrying out unlawful killings, others abducted by Hamas were subjected to torture, including severe beatings with truncheons, gun butts, hoses and wire or held in stress positions. Some were interrogated and tortured or otherwise ill-treated in a disused outpatient’s clinic within the grounds of Gaza City’s main al-Shifa hospital. At least three people arrested during the conflict accused of “collaboration” died in custody.

VA television reporter from Finland’s Helsingin Sanomat, the “Helsinki Dispatch,” spent the night reporting from Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital, where she saw Hamas militants launching a rocket from the hospital’s parking lot (link1, link2)

Al-Aqsa TV (According to 4news)

A senior spokesman for the group, Sami Abu Zuhri, gave an interview on Palestinian station al-Aqsa TV on the subject, two days later:

He said: “This attests to the character of our noble, jihad-loving people – who defend their rights and their homes with their bare chests and their blood."

and

The policy of people confronting the Israeli warplanes with their bare chests in order to protect their homes has proven effective against the occupation… we in Hamas call upon our people to adopt this policy in order to protect the Palestinian homes.”

I'd add that the most essential pro-palestinian voices to this discussion are the people living in Gaza srip, and there were attempts on public demonstrations:

demonstration that began in the camp under the title “We want to live.” (بدنا نعيش) (wafa.ps)

The recent July 2023 demonstrations indicate that perhaps the support for Hamas policies in the strip is not as unequivocal as the Al-Aqsa TV indicates. As demonstrations are quickly suppressed by Hamas and there were no elections since 2007, it is difficult to discern the situation.

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    The word vacant is interesting here. Hiding rockets in schools is a crime, but is a vacant school still a school?
    – gerrit
    Nov 2, 2023 at 7:16
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    @gerrit Good point. One thing it is is a piece of valuable civ infrastructure that an attacking force ought to leave alone if there is no military targets in it. Another thing a school may be is operating as a refugee shelter. Nov 2, 2023 at 7:27
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica Reading the statement from UNRWA, it seems their anger is rather because Hamas uses UN property, which should be neutral, rather than them using civilian buildings at all. As others have pointed out; when a civilian area is under attack, it's hard to avoid having soldiers and their weapons in civilian buildings. But the question is about using civilians as human shields, which is a different story; hiding rockets in a vacant UN school is bad, but if the school is vacant, it's not using human shields by itself.
    – gerrit
    Nov 2, 2023 at 7:39
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    @gerrit "UN Board of Inquiry notes that the school gate was unlocked during the period leading up to the incident “in order to allow children access to the schoolyard.” School was out, but UNRWA was inviting the children back in to play." unwatch.org/… Nov 2, 2023 at 7:58
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    Sreenivasan Jain (New Delhi Television (NDTV), posted a detailed expose on August 5 2014, showing Hamas terrorists assembling, and then firing, a rocket in the middle of a neighborhood filled with residential buildings and hotels ndtv.com/video/news/news/… Nov 2, 2023 at 9:35
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Seems relevant, if a bit dated and indirectly related to use of human shields: Hamas does operate on al-Shifa hospital grounds, according to Amnesty:

Gaza: Palestinians tortured, summarily killed by Hamas forces during 2014 conflict

As well as carrying out unlawful killings, others abducted by Hamas were subjected to torture, including severe beatings with truncheons, gun butts, hoses and wire or held in stress positions. Some were interrogated and tortured or otherwise ill-treated in a disused outpatient’s clinic within the grounds of Gaza City’s main al-Shifa hospital.

Now, whether running a torture center on hospital grounds in 2014 means Hamas uses hospitals for military purposes in 2023 is not totally clear. But it doesn't inspire much trust either.

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Yes.

Here's a striking example of Yahya Sinwar, the head of Hamas in Gaza, using toddlers as human shields. This image was posted by the pro-Israel Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, but the original source is Hamas's own website. Look at the linked article for many more such photos sourced from pro-Palestinian media. Chilling, actually. Yahya al-Sinwar using toddlers and human shields

From the same report comes the following Palestinian-sourced post, if not necessarily pro-Palestinian. I can't find the original Facebook post but here's the report on it:

Confirmation of Hamas’ use of the population as human shields

The Gazans do not generally protest the use Hamas and other terrorist organizations make of them as human shields. However, an unusual statement confirming the fact was a post uploaded by a Gazan named Khalil Amar Abu Ibrahim. He criticized the terms of the distribution of financial aid to the families of shaheeds in the Gaza Strip on behalf of the al-Ansar Charitable Association, which excluded children under the age of 15 and residents over the age of 60. He wrote there were dozens of families who lost their children because PIJ terrorist operatives barricaded themselves in their buildings. He personally lost his three children in the same attack, and they had served as human shields to protect where “so-and-so” from the “resistance” was staying (Facebook page of the al-Ansar Charitable Association, June 2, 2023).

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  • You got to be kidding, right? The Meir Amit anti-terrorism center is now a Pro-Palestinian source? And this "exposition" of human shields is an un-contextualized photo with politicians and children in it? Next time you see politician somewhere kissing a baby, that's a human shield??? Come on, this question is not anti-Israel in the least, but it does explicitly state Palestinian sources. Plenty of other human shield claims are being made about Hamas, but the express intent was to cite credible neutral sources, not Israeli-aligned ones, citing "Facebook pages". -1. Nov 19, 2023 at 17:42
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica, to be fair the pro-Israel nature of Meir Amit was disclosed. The point was their sources for these excerpts are all pro-Palestinian. They opensourced this photo from Hamas's media department. I only showed one, but there are many more on Amit, check it out. The pattern is chilling and unmistakable: Crowds at rallies with cute little toddlers on the chief's lap.
    – YouDontSay
    Nov 19, 2023 at 18:57
  • He spammed the same answer here, skeptics.stackexchange.com/a/56376/3835 I would suggest reviewing the commentary on it. Nov 21, 2023 at 21:56
  • It's here. Although some good discussion there, too.
    – YouDontSay
    Nov 22, 2023 at 3:16
0

Frame challenge.

Israel has announced a ground operation, so it would be highly likely that Hamas is preparing for urban warfare. From all the examples in last two decades that I can remember, such as Fallujah, Mosul, Aleppo and now Bakhmut, we have a good understanding of how urban warfare looks like. The defender organizes resistance in civilian housing and the attacker has to either suffer heavy casualties or destroy these houses with tanks or air strikes, and that comes in some combination. Once a line of houses is ruined, the defenders move to the next one and the attackers have to take that one too.

Where do you think Ukrainian army were in Mariupol during its siege? In a military base outside of civilian areas? No, they were taking hold of civilian high-rise commie blocks, to have guns there so that they can fire at approaching enemy, with obvious destruction of civilian areas stemming from that approach.

So if Hamas is preparing to resist IDF at all (which makes sense in their case), then of course they will be embedding themselves in civilian areas. So now civilians are moving out of north of Gaza but Hamas are moving in and making themself comfortable.

That, plus the fact that Gaza strip has very few space. It's mostly urban. Hamas could not arrange Surovikin line even if they wanted to stop IDF outside of urban area. Plus, they don't have mines and artillery in sufficient quantity for that kind of warfare. With small arms, they will be way more efficient fighting urban warfare.

As for the original question, it is itself framed in the way that Palestineans will refuse to accept. Any IDF "operations" in Gaza or West Bank are illegitimate (according to Palestine and most of the world, with the exception of "experts of human right violations" from USA and Western Europe), so their take would be that of course they are preparing to defend their cities in the face of foreign military invasion.

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    The question is not about fighting from civilian buildings. Of course the fighting is going to take place in civilian buildings. It is about fighting from buildings with civilians in them. Or deliberately staging near schools or hospitals. Since you are into giving a Ukraine spin, one gets the sense that cities like Bakhmut and Adviivka have largely been emptied of nearly all their population: Ukraine army is not trying to stage itself next to civs. Of course, one might suspect RU really doesn't give much of a crap wrt civs anyway. Nov 2, 2023 at 7:19
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica But not Mariupol. Mariupol was not emptied and both sides blamed each other for not helping them out. Here, Israel has told Gazan residents to vacate the north, which they are likely doing to some extent. I doubt that any schools in north Gaza are open.
    – alamar
    Nov 2, 2023 at 7:22
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica Within Gaza there is no difference between 'civilian buildings' and 'buildings with civilians in them'. Yes Israel told Palestians to evacuate the northern part of Gaza but that is like telling people in Rome on one side of the Tiber to evacuate to the other side of the Tiber within Rome. Doesn't excuse Hamas from using schools and hospitals which they also do but they don't have a choice to move the fighting away from buildings full of civilians.
    – quarague
    Nov 2, 2023 at 9:40
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    Any army will use schools (with no school children with them obviously) in the time of hot war because they make for great barracks. A school when teaching is cancelled due to the war is way less of a civilian building than a supermarket.
    – alamar
    Nov 2, 2023 at 9:49
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    urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=commieblocks - answer edited
    – alamar
    Nov 2, 2023 at 12:25
-10

I think this proceeds from a misunderstanding of what guerilla forces actually are.

They do not hide amongst the civilian population. They arise from the civilian population.

Unlike regular soldiery which is also drawn from the civilian population, there are no typical organisational trappings or physical structures for guerillas.

Guerilla fighters arise typically when states mal-administer and oppress a civilian population.

It's become quite common from the 20th century for these guerilla forces to arise, because technological differences have made it often easy for one side to attack the regular forces of another, often from afar.

So nowadays, there often arises a situation where a population is seriously oppressed, but also denuded of the regular forces which they would have formed and used to respond to that kind of attack in the historical past.

In the late 19th century and early 20th century, the first reaction of powerful empires with these asymmetrical technologies was to treat the entire civilian population as the enemy and pummel them.

What they found is that this has two effects.

Firstly, it releases even more dangerous forces from the civilian population in question. Such that even more civilians are mobilised into the guerilla warfare, often with a determination and fearlessness that eclipses what states with regular forces are capable of marshalling in response, and in unexpected ways that render regular forces either ineffective, or which causes (what's nowadays termed...) moral injury to those regular forces (and has consequences both for their discipline in regular service, and for their broader society when they return home).

Vietnam is an example of this (admittedly a later example from the USA, when European empires had already learned their lesson in their colonial possessions).

Secondly, exterminations of the civilian population in part or whole often not only end up consuming serious numbers of regular forces, or at least consuming serious economic resources, but also provokes hostile combinations of remaining enemies that the oppressor had previously encountered (or even successfully promoted and maintained) in a divided or passive condition.

Nazi Germany is an example of this.

For both of the above reasons, strong states have tried to encode laws against assaulting civilian populations, because it always seems to engulf and defeat them for reasons each new generation of regular officers and politicians cannot grasp.

The behaviour of the guerillas defies all their experience of how civilians think and behave in peaceful, wealthy environments (including how civilians react to policemen or soldiers, when those policemen or soldiers threaten force), and how easily regular professional forces collapse once you destroy their materiel and commanding structures.

By contrast, guerillas never seem to collapse, and no matter how high the bodies mount there seems to be another fearless guerilla ready to die in order to deal damage to the oppressing side - even women and children are mobilised.

So the straightforward answer is, yes, Hamas guerillas "hide" in the population, because populations naturally produce and host guerillas from their own number under conditions of oppression.

I should say, the oppression to which I refer are the objective conditions of Gaza. I'm not expressing a position on the political causes. I'm suggesting that guerillas arise from the objective conditions of oppression, regardless of any political rights or wrongs of why those oppressive conditions may have arisen.

Israel is correct in how it analyses the entire Gazan population as being a collective threat, with no real differentiation between civilian and fighter.

But it's proposed solution always falls into one of the two follies I mention above. It will either pummel Gaza and release more dangerous forces, or it will attempt extermination and unite the Arab world whilst alienating it's Western liberal patron states.

Biden is busy trying to work them into only option 1 (pummeling) instead of option 2 (extermination), since the dangerous forces released under option 1 would overwhelm Israel alone, but it is still a manageable problem for Israel's patrons collectively who can allocate more economic resources to reinforce Israel.

Option 2 would cause internal political problems for the patrons, and possibly bring them into sudden confrontation with an un-cowable Arab alliance, which is why they won't allow it.

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    They put their base of operations under a hospital. That's very much using civilian infrastructure as shields, not arising from the civilian population. And Hamas is of course a well-organized organization (a terror organization, as well as the governing organization of Gaza). It's not some organically grown collection of individual guerilla forces.
    – tim
    Nov 2, 2023 at 12:10
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    The notion that Israel is snookered in acting either way, is why so many seemingly powerful states are mired and defeated by guerillas. It's amongst the reasons why strong states have laws against attacking civilians, because whilst states are quite powerful, they aren't infinitely powerful, and like the physics of a nuclear bomb, the forces that can be released from a civilian population, at extreme temperatures and pressures, are a lot larger than would be expected from conventional wisdom and everyday experience. (2/2)
    – Steve
    Nov 2, 2023 at 12:25
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    This is risibly besides the point. Yes, guerrillas emanate from civ ranks. Yes, killing too many civs to suppress them can cause more support for them. Yes, they are hard to defeat, at least on their own territory. But, no, once you are armed you are not a civ anymore. And, no, deliberately seeking proximity to civs or off-limit areas like hospitals is not part of warfare-as-usual. Plenty of guerrillas manage without it (though Gaza's geography doesn't help). All this long-winded historical referencing of Nazis and Vietnam just muddies the waters but makes this answer no more on topic. Nov 2, 2023 at 16:17
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    A guerrilla can choose to hide and disappear amongst civilians, true. But fighting from their proximity is an entirely different thing. And not all that common. Nov 2, 2023 at 16:43
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    That doesn't provide a pro-Palestinian source. It also seems to avoid giving a straight yes, as if adopting the moniker "guerrilla" changes everything.
    – prosfilaes
    Nov 2, 2023 at 19:31

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