Politics

Is Hamas Really Using Civilians As Human Shields?

| by Jared Keever

A United Nations group providing aid to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip said Tuesday it found rockets hidden by militants in a vacant school building that is being used as a shelter.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, said the rockets were found in an empty building situated between two other abandoned UNRWA school buildings. Fox News reports the agency was using those buildings to house 1,500 people who have been displaced by the recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

The discovery has added to complaints that Hamas is hiding and launching rockets among civilians, increasing the likelihood that civilians are killed during the violence.

“Today, in the course of the regular inspection of its premises, UNRWA discovered rockets hidden in a vacant school in the Gaza Strip,” the agency said in press release. “As soon as the rockets were discovered, UNRWA staff were withdrawn from the premises, and so we are unable to confirm the precise number of rockets.”

The statement went on to say that the UNRWA “strongly and unequivocally condemns the group or groups responsible for this flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law.”

The find was the second time in less than a week the UNRWA has discovered weapons in a civilian building in Gaza.

Israel has come under increased scrutiny recently after reports that the bulk of those killed in its airstrikes against Gaza have been civilians. Vox recently reported that two separate U.N. agencies have placed the percentage of civilian deaths among those killed in Gaza between 70 and 77 percent. Last week, Human Rights Watch accused Israel of "targeting apparent civilian structures and killing civilians in violation of the laws of war.”

But Israeli officials point to the recent discoveries of weapons in civilian structures as evidence that Hamas is to blame for civilian casualties.

The IDF released aerial photos this week of rocket launch sites Hamas has been using. You can see them below:

Earlier this week, the IDF released a video of weapons being found next to an agricultural school in Beit Hanoun.

“How many more schools will have to be abused by Hamas missile squads before the international community will intervene?” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor asked The Times of Israel. “How many times can it turn its head the other way and pretend that it just doesn’t see?”

Sources: Fox News, Vox, Times of Israel

Photo Source: Wikipedia