A universe of beauty, mystery and wonder

A universe of beauty, mystery and wonder

Saturday, September 13, 2014

PALESTINIAN HAMAS ADMITS USING HUMAN SHIELDS AND FIRING ROCKETS FROM RESIDENTIAL AREAS - Just a mistake, they say - Previously a UN official had ADMITTED that Hamas was using their facilities to launch rockets.

The main point is that while Israel made extraordinary efforts to avoid harming civilians - even to the extreme of warning by cellphone and other means those close to rocket launching areas to clear out prior to hitting them with missiles - Hamas DELIBERATELY aims its rockets with the purpose of killing Israelis
This very important point is rarely presented on media reports.
Hamas appeared to admit using human shields to fire rockets into Israel for the first time today, but refused to accept responsibility for the slaughter of hundreds of innocent Palestinians killed in retaliatory airstrikes.
In a veiled confession that comes two weeks after the end of the Gaza war, a senior Hamas official said the group's fighters had no choice but to use residential areas from which to launch missiles into their neighbour's territory.
But while Ghazi Hamad claimed they took safeguards to keep people away from the violence, he admitted 'mistakes were made', blaming Israel's heavy-handed response for the deaths of civilians.
Two weeks after the end of the Gaza war, there is growing evidence that Hamas operatives used residential areas as cover for launching rockets at Israel, at least several times. Even Hamas now admits “mistakes” were made. 
But Hamas says it had little choice in Gaza’s crowded urban landscape, took safeguards to keep people away from the fighting, and that a heavy handed Israeli response is to blame for the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians. 
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.

Images released on August 24, 2014 by the IDF documenting Hamas rocket fire from civilian areas in Gaza (credit: IDF Spokesperson)
“The Israelis kept saying rockets were fired from schools or hospitals when, in fact, they were fired from 200-300 meters [220-328 yards] away.
"Still, there were some mistakes made and they were quickly dealt with,” Hamad told
The Associated Press, offering the first acknowledgment by a Hamas official that, in some cases, 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.
Throughout the war, the Israeli air force compiled dozens of video clips showing alleged wrongdoing by Hamas, an Islamic militant group sworn to Israel's destruction.
These videos, many of them posted on YouTube, appear to show rockets flying out of residential neighborhoods, cemeteries, schoolyards and mosque courtyards. There are also images of weapons caches purportedly uncovered inside mosques, and tunnels allegedly used by militants to scurry between homes, mosques and buildings.
'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.

The questions lie at the heart of a brewing international legal confrontation: Did Hamas deliberately and systematically fire rockets at Israel from homes, hospitals and schools in the hope that Israel would be deterred from retaliating, as Israel claims? Or did Israel use force excessively, resulting in deaths among people not involved in combat operations?

The answers could help determine whether Israel, or Hamas, or both, are ultimately accused of violating the international laws of war in a conflict that caused tremendous damage.
Evidence: This photo, provided by the Israel Defense Forces, shows the Gaza City neighborhood of Sheikh Radwan where it says Hamas used four rocket launch sites sitting next to a cluster of schools and nearby residences
PHOTO - Evidence: This photo, provided by the Israel Defense Forces, shows the Gaza City neighborhood of Sheikh Radwan where it says Hamas used four rocket launch sites sitting next to a cluster of schools and nearby residences
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.
Such images, it says, are evidence that Hamas used built-up areas for cover - and carelessly exposed civilians to danger in Israeli retaliatory strikes.
However, the image itself is grainy and shows no clear signs of rocket activity, though rocket launchers are often hidden underground. The army refused to say how it had made its conclusions.
A visit to the area this week found three separate military sites - 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, a militant group allied with Hamas. The bases were deserted. Visible from the outside were human cutout figures and what appeared to be exercise hurdles.
There were no overt signs of rocket launchers or craters in the ground outside, though dirt appeared to have been disturbed either by some sort of blast or the work of heavy military-type trucks. There were pieces of mangled concrete scattered on the ground. The school buildings appeared untouched.
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.

Debunking the myth of there not being anywhere but crowded cities from where to launch rockets against Israel.

 Map source - The ultra-left pro-Palestinian "Peace Now" - via Gatestone Institute
Another location identified by the Israeli military as a rocket-launching site is in northern Gaza around the newly built Indonesian hospital. Immediately to the north of the two-story hospital and across the road to the west are two Hamas military facilities. Both stand in close proximity to residential homes. The hospital stands intact, while nothing is visible from inside the bases.
Hamad, the Hamas official, argued that many of the buildings shown in Israeli videos were either a safe distance from the rocket launchers or that the buildings had been kept vacant during the fighting.
The ground in Sheikh Radwan, for instance, lies some 150 meters (yards) away from the neighborhood, and the schools were empty for summer vacation.
During 50 days of fighting, many observers witnessed rocket launches from what appeared to be urban areas. One piece of video footage distributed by the AP, for instance, captured a launch in downtown Gaza City that took place in a lot next to a mosque and an office of the Hamas prime minister. Both buildings were badly damaged in subsequent Israeli airstrikes.
There was other evidence of Hamas having used civilian facilities: Early in the conflict, the U.N. agency that cares for Palestinian refugees announced that it discovered weapons stored in its schools as they stood empty during the summer.
'I don't think there's any doubt urban areas were used to launch rockets from in the Gaza Strip,' said Bill Van Esveld, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. 'What needs to be determined is how close to a populated building or a civilian area were those rocket launches.'
The issue may never be conclusively settled as both sides voice competing narratives over their conduct in the deadliest and most ruinous of the three wars since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007.
'Yes, Hamas and others may have used civilians as human shields, but was that consistent and widespread?' said Sami Abdel-Shafi, a Palestinian-American who represents the Carter Center in Gaza. 'The question is whether Israel's response was proportionate.'
The war erupted on July 8 when Israel launched a massive aerial bombardment of Gaza in response to weeks of heavy rocket fire by Hamas and other Gaza-based militant groups - part of an escalation that began with the killing by a Hamas cell of three Israeli teens in the West Bank.
The Israeli army says Hamas fired almost 4,000 rockets at Israel, including 600 from close to schools, mosques and other civilian facilities, and scores of mortar shells. Israel carried out some 5,000 airstrikes, in addition to using powerful artillery and gunship fire.
Frequently, Israeli arms struck hospitals, schools, homes, mosques, factories and office towers. Israel said the buildings had been used for cover by militant fighters, and that whenever possible, it provided warning to civilians that strikes on their buildings were coming.
Israel disputes the makeup of the Palestinian casualty figures, saying that nearly half the dead were militants.
Israellycool chart of male/female Gaza victims and ages 
Nevertheless, the death toll and number of civilian deaths have led to harsh condemnations of Israel and raised questions on the proportionality of Israel's response. In an apparent attempt to head off international investigations, the Israeli military said Wednesday it has opened criminal investigations into two high-profile cases involving Palestinian civilian casualties.
Hamas also has been sharply criticized for launching rockets aimed at Israeli cities and towns. Israel says its own civilian death toll would have been much higher had it not been for its rocket defenses.
The U.N. Human Rights Council has appointed a commission to look into the latest fighting. Its report is expected no sooner than March. 
Sources for the above report: 
Photos - Official IDF blog -

Empty Spaces of Gaza -

Also interesting, with aerial photos:  AP notices that Hamas fired rockets from civilian areas as NGOs find excuses -

Senior U.N. Official Admits Hamas Using Their Gaza Facilites To Launch Rockets  
"Yes, the armed groups are firing their rockets into Israel from the vicinity of UN facilities and residential areas, absolutely."
Interviewed on CBC, Canadian National Radio John Ging Director of the United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Hamas terrorists "are firing their rockets into Israel from the vicinity of UN facilities and residential areas."

This statement by a senior UN official confirms what the Israel has said repeatedly since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, that Hamas uses Gaza's civilian population as a human shield.
Male:female ratio of deaths in Ukraine similar to Gaza, but UN comes to different conclusions!
The proportion of civilian men over 18 killed in Gaza seems high.
To help understand this conundrum, the BBC asked the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights if they had any clue:
Matthias Behnk, from OHCHR, told BBC News that the organisation would not want to speculate about why there had been so many adult male casualties, adding that because they were having to deal with a lot of casualties in a short time, they had "focused primarily on recording the casualties".

"As such, we have not at this stage conducted a detailed analysis of trends of civilian casualties, for example in relation to the reasons why different groups are affected and the types of incidents, but hope to carry this out at some point in the coming future," he said.
And what did the UNHRC say about that in the Ukraine?
Reports of medical establishments from the areas under the control of the armed groups do not distinguish between civilian and military casualties. A gender imbalance of casualties reported by these establishments (as of 11 August, women comprised 11% of killed and 13% of wounded in the Donetsk region) may indicate that members of the armed groups who are predominantly male constitute a considerable part of these casualties.
Read more -

Analysis of Gazan civilian casualties in Operation Protective Edge - as of July 25, 2014

graph new2

See more Gaza casualties charts -
Distinctions without a difference
Hamas, ISIS and Al Qaeda

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