'Hamas used kids as human shields'

Exclusive: New research report highlights extensive use of civilians during Gaza op.

Rocket launchers Gaza hospital 311 (photo credit: Malam)
Rocket launchers Gaza hospital 311
(photo credit: Malam)
Hamas gunmen used Palestinian children as human shields, and established command centers and Kassam launch pads in and near more than 100 mosques and hospitals during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip last year, according to a new Israeli report being released on Monday that aims to counter criticism of the IDF.
The detailed 500-page report, obtained exclusively by The Jerusalem Post, was written by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (Malam), a small research group led by Col. (res.) Reuven Erlich, a former Military Intelligence officer who works closely with the army.
The IDF and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) cooperated with the report’s authors and declassified hundreds of photographs, videos, prisoner interrogations and Hamas-drawn sketches as part of an effort to counter the criticism leveled at Israel in the UN-sponsored Goldstone Report.
Related: Israel’s first real response to Goldstone
Work on the Malam report began immediately after former judge Richard Goldstone issued his damning report of Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip in September.
One example of the material revealed in the Malam report is an-until-now classified sketch of the village of Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza discovered by IDF troops during the operation, that details the extensive deployment of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and snipers inside and adjacent to civilian homes.
The sketch was discovered in a home of a Hamas operative together with several IEDs and Kalashnikov rifles.
“The Goldstone Report is one-sided, biased, selective and deceptive, since it simply accepts Hamas claims at face value and presents everything through Hamas’s eyes,” Erlich said.
The Malam report also provides an analysis of another sketch found during the offensive in the Atatra neighborhood in northern Gaza City that Erlich said proves Hamas’s culpability for the ensuing death and destruction.
“By placing all of their weaponry next to homes, by operating out of homes, mosques and hospitals, by firing rockets next to schools and by using human shields, Hamas is the one responsible for the civilian deaths during the operation,” Erlich said.
The Goldstone Report states that its authors “found no evidence that Palestinian combatants mingled with the civilian population with the intention of shielding themselves from attack.”
The Malam report, however, brings declassified videos that show how Hamas used civilians as human shields and deployed its weaponry and command centers inside civilian homes.
In one home, the IDF discovered a note, written in Arabic, that read: “We are your brothers, fighters in this holy war, and we used your home and some of your possessions. We are sorry.”
This note, Malam’s report said, was a clear indication of how Hamas took over civilian homes to use to attack Israeli forces.
According to a previously undisclosed interrogation of a Hamas operative, one Hamas cell transported rockets on the back of a wagon in which children were also sitting. In other cases, the Hamas operative said, Hamas fighters disguised themselves as women carrying babies to ensure that they would not be hit by IDF troops.
The intelligence information is backed up by videos, including one declassified air force video from January 6, 2009, which shows a terrorist shooting at troops from the roof of a building. After spotting an Israeli aircraft, the terrorist goes to the building’s entrance and calls to nearby civilians to help him escape. A few moments later, a group of children arrive at the entrance to the home and the terrorist walks out.
Another video from January 13 shows a senior Hamas terrorist – spotted by an aircraft – walking by himself down a street. After spotting the aircraft, the senior terrorist runs over to an elderly woman walking nearby and continues walking next to her. Later, the IDF discovered that the “elderly woman” was really a Hamas operative in disguise.
Malam also takes Goldstone to task for his claim that “the mission found no evidence that members of Palestinian armed groups engaged in combat in civilian dress,” and as a result could “not find a violation of the obligation not to endanger the civilian population in this respect.”
In response, Malam interviewed a number of IDF officers who provided testimony that a vast majority of Hamas fighters were dressed as civilians, and Hamas videos that showed fighters – during the Israeli offensive – wearing civilian clothing while firing mortars and rocket-propelled grenades at IDF troops.
The Malam report has an entire section on Hamas’s use of mosques, revealing intelligence information that Hamas used almost 100 mosques inside Gaza to fight against the IDF.
“Hamas systematically used mosques as part of its combat doctrine,” the report alleges, in contrast to Goldstone’s report, which claims that the mission was unable to make a determination about the issue.
The Malam report brings countless videos and photographs of dozens of mosques that were used by Hamas to store weapons, functioned as command centers or whose grounds were used to fire rockets into Israel.
The report also details Hamas’s use of hospitals during the offensive, providing evidence that Hamas fired at IDF troops adjacent to and hid weaponry and senior operatives inside at least eight hospitals in the Gaza Strip.
The Malam report devotes an entire section to proving how Hamas’s police and internal security forces were involved in military/terrorist activities and were not, as Goldstone claimed, civilian entities whose only duty was enforcing law and order.
In contrast to the report the IDF is working on and plans to release in the coming months that focuses on IDF operations, Malam’s report is about Hamas, its combat tactics and the way it operates from within densely populated urban centers in Gaza, as well as the events that led up to Cast Lead in late December 2008 that Malam says were disregarded by Goldstone.
The report points to four basic flaws in the Goldstone Report: It doesnot deal with the nature of Hamas – its terrorist aspects and ideology;it minimizes the gravity of the terrorist attacks against Israel,focusing on rocket fire during the six months before Operation CastLead while devoting little space to the rocket and mortar fire thatbegan in 2001; it does not deal with the Hamas military buildup in theGaza Strip in the year preceding Cast Lead that threatened Israel, butat the same time did provide extensive historical coverage of theIsraeli-Palestinian conflict; and it ignored the role Iran and Syriaplay in Gaza by aiding Hamas and supplying it with explosives andweaponry.