In a new strategy aimed at its critics, the Israeli Defense Forces unveiled on Wednesday a list of Hamas targets in Gaza adjacent to civilian sites.
More than one year after the Gaza-Israel war dubbed Guardian of the Walls by the IDF, Hamas is rebuilding its militant infrastructure in close proximity to schools, medical centers and factories, Israeli officials say.
In a briefing with members of the foreign press, the IDF spokesperson revealed documentation of civilian structures that Hamas uses as shields, among them a tunnel next to a Pepsi factory, a United Nations school and Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital.
Israeli military officials explained that these sites would be targeted in a future round of fighting with Hamas.
Footage of the locations showed the routes of terror tunnels running underneath an ambulance center, a Catholic school, a sports center and a mosque. The IDF says that the Islamic University of Gaza shields an opening to a network of terrorist tunnels. In addition, the IDF has shared images of a Hamas weapons manufacturing site near Shifa Hospital.
The IDF has been accused in the past of causing civilian casualties in airstrikes targeting populated areas in Gaza. One example was the targeting of a 12-story building in Gaza City in May 2021. The Al-Jalaa Tower housed offices of media outlets, including Al Jazeera and The Associated Press. Against mounting international backlash, the IDF claimed there were “military interests of the Hamas intelligence.”
During those 11 days of fighting, at least 260 Palestinians were killed, according to Gazan sources. At least 80 members of Hamas were reportedly among them, although Israel claims the number is higher. On the Israeli side, 14 people were killed.
Israel stresses that it always tries to minimize harm to civilian populations when targeting terrorist infrastructure, such as launching sites, tunnels and intelligence locations. In the past, the IDF has dropped leaflets in Arabic, called nearby residents before striking and used “roof knocking” – dropping a non-lethal bomb as a sign – to give civilians time to evacuate from the area.
However, tactics to avoid civilian casualties have not protected the IDF from international criticism and scrutiny, including investigations by the International Criminal Court in The Hague and a United Nations fact-finding mission following the the 2014 Gaza conflict and Operation Cast Lead in 2008. The famous Goldstone Report from 2009 accused both the IDF and Hamas of war crimes.
Against this backdrop, an IDF official told Ynet, “Hamas hides its military sites in civilian neighborhoods and our actions today are to allow us the freedom to operate, in case of conflict.”
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.