Israeli report: Hamas used civilians as human shields in Gaza war

Israeli report: Hamas used civilians as human shields in Gaza war

Hamas used Palestinian civilians as human shields, stored weapons in and fired them from mosques, and set up command centres in hospitals during last year's Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, a report released Monday said, DPA reported.

The 500-page report, compiled by the Israeli non-profit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre, (known by its Hebrew acronym "Malam") examined hundreds of photographs, videos, prisoner interrogation transcripts and Hamas-drawn sketches.

Work on it began immediately following the publication, last September, of a report by a United Nations Human Rights Commission team.

The UN report, headed by South African jurist Richard Goldstone, accused Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity as well.

The Malam report does not examine Israeli actions during the fighting, which were severely criticised by the Goldstone report, but instead concentrates on Hamas and attempts to contrast "the main findings of the Goldstone report with the factual findings."

Israel launched its offensive against the Gaza-based militants on December 27, 2009, claiming it was a response to years of concerted Palestinian rocket fire on Israeli towns and villages.

Fighting ended on January 18, with much of the Gaza Strip in ruins and around 1,400 Palestinians, many of them civilians, dead.

According to the data presented in the Malam report, Hamas used close to 100 mosques for military purposes during the fighting, as sniper positions or to store weapons.

Aerial photographs presented in the report show rocket launchers deployed directly next to mosques.

The document also accuses key Hamas leaders of sleeping inside a children's hospital in order to escape Israeli targeted killings.

It claims that during the Israeli offensive, Hamas used more than 10 hospitals as a base from which to launch rockets at Israeli towns and to attack Israeli troops.

Intelligence obtained by Israel showed that Hamas' top leaders were based in a bunker underneath the burn unit at Gaza City's Shifa hospital, the report claimed.

The Islamist organization also set up a command centre inside the wing of a children's hospital in Gaza City.

The report presents aerial photographs purporting to show the area around the al-Fahoura Medical Centre in the northern Gaza Strip was heavily mined, and that tunnels were dug around the building.

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