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Gaza -The Humanitarian Aspect and the Propaganda War

The tragedy at the school in Jebaliya

On 6 January 2009, some 40 Palestinians were killed in a heartrending tragedy at a school in Jebaliya. Israeli mortar shells exploded near the U.N. school in Gaza that was sheltering hundreds of people displaced by Israel’s attacks against Hamas militants.

Innocent civilians should not have died. However, it is vitally important to understand how this horrific incident occurred and who truly bears the responsibility for it.

According to a communiqué of the IDF, an initial inquiry by forces on operating in the area of the incident indicates that a number of mortar shells were fired at IDF forces from within the Jabalya school. In response to the incoming enemy fire, the forces returned mortar fire to the source. 

According to Associated Press Writers Ibrahim Barzak and Steve Weizman, the IDF report that two Hamas militants — Imad Abu Askar and Hasan Abu Askar — were among the dead in the school bombing incident, was confirmed by local Gazan residents, who said that a group of militants fired mortars from a street near the school, then fled into a crowd of people in the streets. Israel then opened fire. The residents, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared for their safety, said the Abu Askar brothers were known low-level Hamas militants.

This is not the first time that Hamas has fired mortars and rockets from schools in such a way, deliberately using civilians as human shields in their acts of terror against Israel. This was already proven several months ago by footage from an unmanned plane showing rockets and mortars being fired from the yard of the same UNRWA school. 

On that occasion the UN secretary general ordered an investigation into the incident in which Palestinian militants fired mortars at Israel from the UN-run school in Gaza. Ban Ki-moon condemned the abuse of UN facilities and described it a “serious violation of the UN’s privileges and immunities” (BBC News, 9 November 2007).

The human shield strategy

It is a clear and known fact that Hamas deliberately uses the strategy of human shields in its operational terrorist and guerrilla activities. I have stressed this in my article concerning the targeting of the high level Hamas leader Nizar Rayyan, who according to the Hamas website “took the initiative, two years ago, to protect homes against Israeli occupation air strikes by forming human shields.” His family was warned before the attack but did not leave the building and was killed alongside Rayyan.

Please see a comprehensive paper on the “human shield” strategy at the bellow link (open also the pdf file at the end of the document): 

Another explicit example of this tactic is the Hamas video which shows Hamas militants firing mortar shells yesterday from the middle of a street in the Gaza city. The cell is formed by people dressed as civilians, flying the area of the incident after the firing of a bunch of mortars. See the video at (the title is wrong)::

I would like to add another aspect in the dispute about the humanitarian tragedies in the Middle East which I stressed in a previous paper: the double standard in responding to such incidents when Israel is seen as responsible and in cases when Arabs or Muslims kill innocent Muslims. I will present only one example:

The Nahr Al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp tragedy

In the second half of May 2007, fighting broke around the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr Al-Bared, in the north of Lebanon. Lebanese troops began shelling the camp, near the northern city of Tripoli, after it pledged to “finish off” the radical Fatah Al-Islam group entranced in the camp. Militants from Fatah Al-Islam responded with gun and mortar fire. See some of the first reports at:

The Lebanese army artillery and air force bombed the camp for consecutive three months until they expelled the 200 Fatah al-Islam militants. The expressions of outside support and the outcry of the Palestinian residents and the PLO did not impress anyone in the Arab world. You can vision the results of the complete destruction of the camp, where some 30,000 displaced Palestinians lived. It speaks for itself.

* Dr. Karmon is Senior Research Scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) at The Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzlyia, Israel