No doubt you would have heard / read about the tragedy that happened overnight in Jebaliya in the Gaza Strip, where dozens of Palestinians civilians, including children, were killed in a school owned by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) when the IDF were involved in heavy artillery clashes with Hamas terrorists hiding in and around the school.
I call this incident a tragedy because civilian deaths are exactly that, whether Israeli or Palestinian. However, even when confronted with the difficult images, news reports and commentary in our media, as well as conversations with our friends and colleagues, we must remember that Israel is doing everything in its power to identify and strike Hamas targets and Hamas terrorists only, while Hamas intentionally and criminally targets Israeli civilians and use their own people as shields when Israel legitimately responds. In our capacity as advocates, it is essential to communicate that the responsibility for this incident and for this war lies squarely with Hamas.
Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs have released evidence that Hamas were hiding amongst their own people in the area around the school. Click here for the MFA report entitled “Behind the Headlines: The tragedy at the school in Jebaliya”.
Associated Press writers, Ibrahim Barzak and Steve Weizmann reported:
“The Israeli army said its soldiers came under fire from militants hiding in the school and responded. It accused Gaza’s Hamas rulers of “cynically” using civilians as human shields. Residents confirmed the account, saying militants were seen staging attacks from the area…The army said two Hamas militants — Imad Abu Askar and Hasan Abu Askar — were among the dead. Two neighborhood residents confirmed the Israeli account, saying a group of militants fired mortars from a street near the school, then fled into a crowd of people in the streets. Israel then opened fire. The residents, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared for their safety, said the Abu Askar brothers were known low-level Hamas militants.”
Hamas television openly broadcast terrorists firing missiles within Jebaliya just the day before. Click here to view the must-see footage with Arabic commentary that clearly mentions the location.
The Jerusalem Post reports that Israeli Defense officials told The Associated Press that booby-trapped bombs in the school had triggered secondary explosions that killed additional Palestinians. Click here for the article 30 killed in blast at UN school in Gaza. This confirms Israeli’s initial response that described “A series of explosions followed, indicating the probable presence of ammunition and arms in the building.”
The JPost article also points out that Tuesday was not the first time Hamas had attacked Israel from within a school. In October 2007, Israel’s unmanned aircraft captured terrorists firing mortars from a UNRWA boys’ school in Gaza’s Beit Hanoun. Please see the MFA report here. The IDF released the images, which is essential viewing and in the report. Israel’s news website Ynet reported this incident, see Video: Terrorists firing mortars from schoolyard
Hamas’ use of civilians, particularly children as human shields and civilian locations – schools, hospitals, mosques and homes, as sources of attacks is as cowardly and cynical as war gets, but these are the facts on the ground as we know them. The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC) report detailing this is essential reading and for visual materials please click here.
Finally, Israel PM Ehud Olmert has just announced that a special humanitarian corridor will be set up to Gaza for limited period of times to allow Palestinian population to equip itself with food and goods. Please read more on Ynet here.
The Zionist Council office is closed until Monday January 12 but will continue to bring you the latest news from Israel as it happens.
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