Hamas used close to 100 mosques throughout the Gaza Strip for military purposes during Operation Cast Lead, according to IDF intelligence information revealed in a new report aimed at countering the UN’s Goldstone Report.
The new report was compiled by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (Malam) and dedicates an entire chapter to Hamas’s use of mosques before and during last winter’s offensive in the Gaza Strip. It is aimed at disproving the Goldstone Report, who authors concluded that they could not confirm Israel’s claims that Hamas used mosques for military purposes during the operation.
“The mission was unable to make a determination regarding the [Israeli] allegation,” former judge Richard Goldstone wrote in the UN report.
The Malam report asserts that the extensive use of mosques to store weapons and as launch pads for rocket attacks on Israel was part of a Hamas strategy based on the knowledge that the IDF would not target civilian infrastructure including mosques, which were therefore ideal for weapons storehouses and rocket attacks.
The Malam analysis is based on Hamas sketches of neighborhoods that show that mosques were used as sniper positions, Israel Air Force videos showing massive secondary explosions after mosques were hit as well as reports from IDF troops.
One mosque in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City was raided by IDF troops who discovered a warehouse full of rockets and mortar shells. During the operation, a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at Israel troops from the mosque.
On January 13, IDF troops raided a mosque in Jabalya in northern Gaza that was full of weaponry including an anti-aircraft cannon. In a mosque in the Atatra neighborhood in northern Gaza City, troops uncovered a secret warehouse built under the podium, from where the imam leads prayers, which was full of weaponry and improvised explosive devices.
“The Goldstone Report uses obscure language and twists and turns with regard to the military use of mosques,” the Malam document reads. “The report refrained from determining that Hamas is responsible for the military use of the mosques, in gross violation of international law, which provides protection for houses of prayer.”
In a number of aerial photographs, the Malam report shows the location of rocket launchers and IEDs that were discovered directly next to mosques. In a video taken by an IAF aircraft on January 7, 2009, a rocket is detected as it is fired from the courtyard of the Altakua Mosque in in Gaza City’s Sheikh Radwan neighborhood. The launcher was attacked and destroyed by Israeli forces.
In another case, the IDF discovered a bomb along a road in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip that was attached to a cable leading to a detonator in a mosque across the street, where Hamas fighters were to wait to detonate the device.
In the southern Gaza Strip, the IDF collected testimonies of civilians that Hamas forbade them from entering a mosque in the village of Khirbat Haza several days before the IDF’s ground operation. The civilians said they later saw Hamas operatives carrying large crates into the mosque.
The Malam report also brings testimony obtained from three Hamas
operatives captured during Cast Lead who revealed the existence of
weaponry in mosques. One operative, Sabhi Majad Atar, said he received
training how to use an RPG and fire rockets inside the Balal ben Rabah
Mosque in Atatra.
A Fatah operative, Hamed Farji Abed Raboo
Salah, said that, fearing for their lives, Gazans stopped praying at
the Salah Aldin Mosque in Jabalya after learning that Hamas had stored
massive amounts of explosives on the top floors.