Israel's military is claiming to have obtained a Hamas manual on urban warfare that reportedly details the "benefits of human shields" and highlights that the use of civilians against the Israel Defense Forces has been "intentional and preplanned."
According to the IDF's official blog, the manual proves that Hamas is cognizant of the fact that Israel works diligently to minimize civilian casualties and that the terror group "exploits these efforts by using civilians as human shields against advancing IDF forces."
The manual, said to belong to the Shuja’iya Brigade of Hamas’ military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, apparently acknowledges Israel's efforts to do as little harm as possible while also noting how concentrated civilian populations — referred to as "pockets of resistance" — make this task immensely difficult for the IDF.
An image of the Hamas "urban warfare" manual IDF claims to have obtained (Israel Defense Forces)
"The soldiers and commanders (of the IDF) must limit their use of weapons and tactics that lead to the harm and unnecessary loss of people and [destruction of] civilian facilities," the manual reads, according to IDF. "It is difficult for them to get the most use out of their firearms, especially of supporting fire [e.g. artillery]."
The Hamas directive further adds that the concentrated presence of these civilian populations poses some specific problems for Israeli forces.
In addition to impediments surrounding opening fire and controlling civilian populations during and after operations, the manual notes the difficulties of getting medical supplies to civilians, while apparently also referencing the destruction of private property and its benefits to Hamas.
"The destruction of civilian homes: This increases the hatred of the citizens towards the attackers [the IDF] and increases their gathering [support] around the city defenders (resistance forces [i.e. Hamas])," the manual continues.
CNN said that a translation of the two pages posted on the IDF blog didn't yield "specific statements that Hamas uses its own civilian population as human shields."
That said, the outlet noted that a section detailed the benefits that the demolition and bombing of homes brought for Hamas, though CNN said the document's authenticity could not be confirmed.
A second image of the Hamas "urban warfare" manual IDF claims to have obtained (Israel Defense Forces)
Throughout Operation Protective Edge, Israel has repeatedly said that Hamas routinely uses civilians as human shields.
As previously reported, Hamas recently told Palestinians to stay inside their homes and not to listen to Israeli directives to vacate neighborhoods. A number of examples of the purported use of human shields in Gaza can be found here.
"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," TheBlaze's Sharona Schwartz reported last month.
Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal, though, denied using civilians as human shields during an interview this week with CNN.
"Hamas sacrifices itself for its people and does not use its people as human shield to protect its soldiers," he said. "These are lies and Hamas does not seek international sympathy through its own victims."