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Polish Journalist: Hamas Used Residents, Journalists as Human Shields in Last Gaza War

Hamas fired rockets at Israel from residential areas in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge last year in an attempt to provoke IDF retaliatory strikes and cause civilian casualties, Wojciech Cegielski, a reporter for Polish Radio, wrote in an op-ed published by Ha’aretz today.

Cegielski worked in Gaza for a month last summer, and called the reality within the Hamas-dominated territory “much more complicated than can be seen from a distance.” The Polish journalist specifically recounted two incidents he witnessed in the midst of the conflict, which led him to conclude that Hamas terrorists “were breaking international rules of war and worst of all, were not afraid to use their own citizens as living shields.”

The first incident happened late in the evening. I was in the bathroom when I’ve heard a loud rocket noise and my Spanish colleague, a journalist who was renting a flat with me near the Gaza beach, started to scream. He wanted to light a cigarette and came to one of the open windows. The moment he was using his lighter, he saw a fireball in front of his eyes and lost his hearing.

From what our neighbors told us later, a man drove up in a pickup to our tiny street. He placed a rocket launcher outside and fired. But the rocket failed to go upwards and flew along the street at ground level for a long time before destroying a building. It was a miracle that nobody was hurt or killed.

Cegielski wrote that, after analyzing the incident, he and his colleague understood that those responsible for the rocket fire were attempting to draw a retaliatory Israeli strike on the residential neighborhood. Fortunately, Cegielski observed, “the rocket missed its target in Israel.”

The second story happened in the middle of the day. I was sitting with other journalists in a cafe outside one of the hotels near the beach. During wartime, these hotels are occupied by foreign press and some NGOs. Every hotel is full and in its cafes many journalists spend their time discussing, writing, editing stories or just recharging the phones. Suddenly I saw a man firing a rocket from between the hotels. It was obvious that we journalists became a target. If the IDF would strike back, we all would be dead. What would Hamas do? It would not be surprising to hear about the “cruel Zionist regime killing innocent and free press.”

The incidents Cegielski recounted are similar to several that were reported last year. Last summer, while broadcasting live from Gaza, France 24 correspondent Gallagher Fenwick was forced to run for cover when a rocket was launched only meters away from his location. Fenwick later returned to the area and found that the rocket launch site was in middle of a residential area and near a United Nations building. In another incident, a crew from India’s NDTV saw terrorists setting up a launch site outside of the hotel where they and other foreign journalists were staying. NDTV did not report about the incident until they left Gaza.

[Photo: Polskie Radio / YouTube ]