Two weeks after the end of the Gaza war, there is growing evidence that Hamas terrorists used residential areas as cover for launching rockets at Israel. Even Hamas now admits “mistakes” were made.
Increasingly, the discussion is not about whether the Hamas rockets were fired from civilian areas, but exactly how close they were to the actual buildings.
“The Israelis kept saying rockets were fired from schools or hospitals when in fact they were fired 200 or 300 yards away. Still, there were some mistakes made and they were quickly dealt with,” Mr. Hamad told The Associated Press, offering the first acknowledgment by a Hamas official that, in some cases, their operatives fired rockets from or near residential areas or civilian facilities.
Ahead of a U.N. investigation, the Israeli military has released reams of evidence, including satellite photos and aerial footage, to support its claims that it acted responsibly and attempted to minimize Palestinian casualties. It asserts that Hamas made no effort to disguise its attempt to maximize Israeli civilian casualties.
“Hamas’ excuses are outrageous, misleading and contrary to the evidence supplied by the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) and the reality documented by international journalists on the ground in Gaza,” said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman.
Throughout the war, the Israeli air force compiled dozens of video clips showing rockets flying out of residential neighborhoods, cemeteries, schoolyards and mosque courtyards. There are also images of weapons caches uncovered inside mosques, and tunnels used by terrorists to scurry between homes, mosques and buildings.
But a black-and-white satellite image released by the Israeli military illustrates the difficulties in proving the point. The army says the image, taken of the Gaza City neighborhood of Sheikh Radwan, shows four rocket launch sites sitting next to a cluster of schools and a nearby residential neighborhood.
However, the image itself is grainy and shows no clear signs of rocket activity, though rocket launchers are often hidden underground.
A visit to the area this week found three separate military sites and possibly training grounds, slightly larger than football fields, located close to the state schools.
The sites are mostly concealed from street view by barriers made of corrugated iron, but one bore the sign of Hamas’ military wing, al-Qassam Brigades, while another bore the sign of the Islamic Jihad.
Hamas tightly restricts access to such facilities, and it was impossible for photographers to enter the sites. Israel confirmed the area was targeted in airstrikes.