TEL AVIV - The Israeli military provided its most detailed assessment yet of the conduct and impact of the Gaza war, including photographs indicating that militants stored and fired rockets from schools and a breakdown of the toll inflicted on Hamas.
In a briefing at its headquarters in Tel Aviv, the Israel Defense Forces presented a minute picture of the structure and capability of Hamas and other militant groups operating in Gaza, an effort to explain the severity of the threat Israel faced and justify Israel's heavy tank shelling and air strikes during the 50-day conflict.
Among the evidence laid out by a senior military officer were details of the ranges and number of rockets fired by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, photographs showing how rocket launchers were hidden in graveyards and a school playground, and how tunnels were used to carry out and escape from the site of attacks.
One set of photographs showed a school by day, its central yard empty. By night, rockets looked to be stockpiled in the yard. At another school a canopy, where a hole had been torn for a rocket launching, was further frayed after a projectile was fired from underneath, he said.
"We're dealing with a carefully structured and, in many cases, well-trained terrorist force," said the general staff officer, who spoke on condition that his name not be used.
"Hamas has at least 16,000 operatives organized into six brigades across the Gaza Strip, each with its own commander, while (Islamic Jihad) has a similar structure and a total of around 6,000 operatives."
During the war, at least 6 UN-run schools were hit by Israeli artillery, killing at least two dozen people and drawing heavy criticism of Israel. Terrorist rockets were also found in three empty UN schools.