The Hamas leadership in Gaza is ordering Palestinians to stay in their homes even if they are warned by the Israel Defense Forces to vacate before their neighborhood is bombed.
The Washington Free Beacon reported Thursday that Hamas’ Interior Ministry issued a statement which “warned citizens about Israel sending messages telling them to leave their houses.”
The IDF has been placing telephone calls to the houses it is about to bomb, because Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders are directing rocket attacks on Israel from the middle of populated residential areas.
The official Hamas directive was given to the Free Beacon by Oren Adaki, an Arabic language specialist with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based think tank.
“The goal of these actions is to create confusion among the citizens,” the Hamas ministry said and instructed “all citizens to not heed these messages Israel.”
“The goal of these [Israeli] messages is terrorizing citizens and to cause panic among them,” the statement read.
An English-language message posted by Hamas’ Interior Ministry for National Security a day before said it was “calling on all people not to deal or pay attention to the psychological warfare carried out by the occupation through rumors that broadcast across his media and delivering publications and communications on the phones of citizens, and the lack of response for each of these means, which aims to weaken the domestic front in light of great steadfastness of our people to face the aggression.”
The order in effect turns Gaza civilians into human shields and is apparently designed to deter Israel from striking civilian areas where rocket launchers and terrorist weapons depots are hidden, because Hamas is aware of the reluctance of the IDF and the Israeli public to see civilian casualties. This stands in stark contrast with Palestinian terrorist groups, which are firing indiscriminately into Israeli communities, including hitting a home in Beer Sheba on Thursday.
For years, Hamas militants have been hiding weapons and launching sites among civilians, increasing the likelihood of Palestinian casualties from Israeli bombing of terrorist targets in Gaza, IDF video and Hamas leader statements from this week and earlier show.
Hamas “understands that Israel is reluctant to attack terrorists in civilian areas,” an IDF video said.
The IDF posted video Thursday showing an airstrike of what it described as a rocket-launching site hidden in a Gaza residential neighborhood:
“IDF aircraft strikes a concealed rocket launching site in Gaza, which held advance rockets capable of striking Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The concealed weapons caused a massive secondary explosion, confirming their existence embedded in a civilian area,” the IDF said in a statement.
During its three days of Operation Protective Edge, which aims to put a stop to the barrage of Hamas and Islamic Jihad rockets on Israel, the IDF has dropped leaflets and phoned homes near bombing targets to tell residents to flee.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri encouraged Palestinians to go onto their rooftops to meet Israeli bombs targeting terrorist sites, telling Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV that the human shield tactic has “proved very successful” in the past:
“This attests to the character of our noble, jihad-fighting people, who defend their rights and their homes with their bare chests and their blood. The policy of people confronting the Israeli warplanes with their bare chests in order to protect their homes has proven effective against the occupation,” Abu Zuhri said, according to a translation from the Middle East Media Research Institute.
“This policy reflects the character of our brave, courageous people. We in Hamas call upon our people to adopt this policy, in order to protect the Palestinian homes,” he said.
According to the IDF, a July 8 photo shows Palestinian civilians gathering on the roof of the home of a Hamas operative who was targeted by the Israeli military.
“They did so in order to act as human shields and deter an imminent IDF attack,” the IDF said.
TheBlaze is unable to independently authenticate the photo.
Linda Todd saw the Hamas tactic firsthand in 2009 when she was married to a Palestinian journalist and living in Gaza. While attending church in Gaza, she wrote, “I was surprised to find a Hamas headquarters located directly across the street from the church, again in an area of Gaza City where I was told you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find Hamas supporters. I soon learned that the church has sustained damage during bombing one night.”
“When I worked in a school there, it was well known that Hamas occupied the high rise overlooking our school field. We could often see people staring down on us. The school kids would often stop and shout up at the people, telling them off, telling them to stop watching us,” Todd wrote Wednesday on the blog Israelly Cool. “It was obvious to me that if that building ever became a target to bomb, the school would again sustain heavy damage. In fact, it did in the last large military action. Hamas is everywhere.”
“There seems to be no separation at all between terrorist and civilian areas, which is disgusting because they know there are civilians who don’t support them and yet they pop up everywhere,” she added.
To drive home the point on the human shield tactic, the IDF tweeted this animation comparing Israeli homes with bomb shelters in the basement with Gaza homes used by Hamas to hide weapons: