The recent deaths of at least 15 Gazans taking shelter in a United Nations-run school last week have caused skepticism toward both sides, raising questions as to whether Israel is violating human rights protections or if Hamas is using innocent civilians as human shields.
As the conflict between Israel and Palestine enters its fourth week, already more than 700 Palestinian and 53 Israeli soldiers have been killed. Faced with incredibly lopsided casualties, Israel has been the subject of widespread criticism as to whether the state is violating human rights laws by attacking civilian forces. Yet, according to the Israel Defense Forces, the Jewish state warned the U.N. three days prior to the attack, and they failed to properly evacuate the school. The U.N. has condemned both sides for failing to take appropriate action against civilian casualties.
While Hamas also openly targets Israeli civilians, Israel’s missile-defense system has prevented most of these attacks from coming to fruition. So far, only three Israeli civilians have been killed. Israel claims to take precautions in order to limit civilian casualties. The U.N. estimates that about 75 percent of the Palestinians killed have been civilians.
While Hamas’ launching of indiscriminate rockets into domestic areas may certainly be deemed a war crime, Human Rights Watch claims Israel is not completely innocent, either. Israel’s “warnings” hardly provide enough time for residents to flee, and an investigation failed to find evidence of Hamas military targets in areas attacked.
Yet evidence of Hamas supporting the use of human shields is growing. In a July 15 video clip, Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri commended these acts to a point of near heroism. “The fact that people are willing to sacrifice themselves against Israeli warplanes in order to protect their homes, I believe this strategy is proving itself,” said Abu Zuhri.
As tensions rise, officials around the world have voiced support of the need for a Palestinian state. While Israel has called for a cease-fire, Hamas has repeatedly rejected the possibility. Now, with the “ball in Hamas’ court,” many hope the cease-fire will prevent further accumulation of civilian deaths in the Palestinian state.
– Nick Magnanti