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Violating Int’l Law, Hamas Uses Hospital Patients as Human Shields

The Times of Israel reported today that the IDF has targeted sections of the Al-Wafa rehabilitation hospital, “explaining that the medical facility was being used as a Hamas command center and utilized repeatedly by Islamist gunmen to launch attacks on Israeli forces.”

In a statement the IDF explained that “the hospital grounds and its immediate surroundings have been repeatedly utilized by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a command center, rocket launching site, and a post enabling terrorists to open fire at soldiers.”

Gunmen, some launching anti-tank missiles, frequently opened fire on troops operating in the area, the IDF said, including on Wednesday morning. Airstrikes against the compound went ahead “in light of several occasions in which fire was opened at IDF forces from within the hospital grounds, and despite repeated warnings against such activities, and notifications to civilians to vacate the premises.”

During Operation Protective Edge, Hamas has been using hospitals and areas around them to launch attack and protect personnel.

On July 15, William Booth reported for The Washington Post:

At the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, crowds gathered to throw shoes and eggs at the Palestinian Authority’s health minister, who represents the crumbling “unity government” in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The minister was turned away before he reached the hospital, which has become a de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders, who can be seen in the hallways and offices.

Nicholas Casey, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, tweeted about a Hamas official giving an interview in Shifa. The tweet was deleted, possibly because it violated Hamas’social media rules. HonestReporting catalogued numerous instances of Gaza-based reporters documenting Hamas’ tactic of using human shields, and included a screenshot of the tweet.

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The IDF has released photographs pinpointing how close outgoing rocket fire is to hospitals.

Using hospitals as part of its human shield policy is not new for Hamas.

A PBS report from 2007 showed how Hamas gunmen intimidate the staff at al-Shifa hospital.

During Operation Cast Lead in 2009, The New York Times reported:

Hamas, with training from Iran and Hezbollah, has used the last two years to turn Gaza into a deadly maze of tunnels, booby traps and sophisticated roadside bombs. Weapons are hidden in mosques, schoolyards and civilian houses, and the leadership’s war room is a bunker beneath Gaza’s largest hospital, Israeli intelligence officials say.

Two weeks before that, the Times also reported on how Hamas terrorists summarily executed patients in the hospital.

In the fourth floor orthopedic section, a woman in her late twenties asked a militant to let her see Saleh Hajoj, her 32-year-old husband. She was turned away and left the hospital. Fifteen minutes later, Hajoj was carried out of his room by young men pretending to transfer him to another hospital section. As he lay on the stretcher, he was shot in the left side of the head. A bit of brain emerged on the other side of his skull.

Hajoj, like five others who were killed at the hospital in this way in the previous 24 hours, was accused of collaboration with Israel.

According to The Jerusalem Post, a report compiled after Operation Cast Lead found that Hamas used ten Gaza hospitals to hide personnel and launch attacks.

The top Hamas leadership slept inside a children’s hospital in Gaza City the night of December 27, 2008, to escape Israeli targeted killings after the IDF launched Operation Cast Lead, according to intelligence revealed in a new report aimed at countering the Goldstone Report.

According to the paper, compiled by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (Malam), Hamas used over 10 hospitals during last year’s operation to launch rockets at Israeli towns and to attack IDF troops operating inside the Gaza Strip.

Using hospitals as a means to protect its personnel and attack Israel is a particularly egregious violation of international law.

[Photo: PBS / YouTube ]