Despite the fact that Hamas started the recent conflict with Israel by kidnapping and murdering three Israeli youths, many are nevertheless blaming Israel for the civilian death toll that has ensued.While it is true that more than hundreds of civilians have been killed since Israel's Operation Protective Edge in Gaza began, the question is: Does Israel really deserve the blame for this wanton disregard for human life? The answer is: Absolutely not.In fact, responsibility for the carnage among civilians in Gaza rests squarely on the shoulders of Hamas for two reasons: The writer is an Islamic thinker and reformer, and a one-time Islamic extremist from Egypt. He was a member of the terrorist organization JI with Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, who later became the second-in-command of al-Qaida. He is currently a senior fellow and chairman of the study of Islamic radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. www.tawfikhamid.com1. The terrorists are shamelessly using women and children as human shields to protect themselves. 2. Hamas rejected the cease-fire initiative put forward by the Egyptian government.According to the Egyptian initiative, a cease-fire would have gone into effect at 9:00 a.m. on July 15th, 2014. The plan offered an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, and the immediate resumption of peace negotiations between the adversaries. The aim of the Egyptian government was purely to protect innocent lives, prevent further bloodshed and put an end to the killing of innocent non-combatants.Israel accepted the offer immediately. The US and the EU likewise welcomed it. Hamas, in stark contrast, flatly refused the proposal. Had Hamas accepted the Egyptian cease-fire initiative, almost all of the civilians who were later killed in the clash between Hamas and Israel would have been spared. In other words, Hamas could have saved all of these innocent lives by simply accepting the Egyptian cease-fire plan. They did not. Israel's unhesitating acceptance of the plan, by contrast, clearly indicates a sincere desire to protect innocent human lives. The Israeli attitude reflects the sentiment expressed by Golda Meir decades ago: “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children but we cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children."Hamas's refusal to accept the Egyptian cease-fire initiative was actually not at all surprising. In fact, it was predictable. The escalation of the conflict and the consequent casualty rate among civilians is a boon to Hamas fundraising efforts in the international community. And it is an open secret that a high percentage of the proceeds end up lining the pockets of corrupt Hamas officials.In other words, Hamas has no interest whatsoever in stopping the violence and thereby ending the killing of innocent Palestinians. Peace might stanch the flow of money. The personal interests of Hamas leadership take precedence over saving the lives of the Palestinian people.Additionally, Hamas has used the attacks on Israel to rekindle anti-Semitic fervor and thus regain for itself a favorable public image on the Arab street. Hamas' reputation had suffered considerably in the Arab world since the June 30 revolution against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Portraying itself as willing and able to take up arms against Israel increases public support for Hamas on the Arab street, which has been driven by a pathological hatred of Israel for several decades. Following Israel's immediate acceptance of the cease-fire offered by the Egyptian government, ending the killing of innocent Palestinians was in the hands of Hamas. Instead of accepting the cease-fire, Hamas rejected the offer, launched more than a thousand missiles into Israel, and then used human shields to protect themselves from Israeli retribution. Hamas' rejection of the cease-fire plan can only be regarded as intentional killing of the Palestinian people. All of these killings would have been avoided had Hamas accepted the cease-fire plan at the outset. There is just no accounting for the use of civilians as human shields.Do not blame Israel; blame Hamas for the deaths of innocent Palestinian civilians.