Using civilians as human shields

Issued on: 25/03/2009 Type: Article

Overview

1. UNRWA operates 221 schools throughout the Gaza Strip with a total student body of about 200,000, 2 as well as 18 medical centers. Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip have repeatedly established military positions, training camps and rocket and mortar shell launching sites near buildings belonging to the UN , especially schools. According to a report issued by the Special Representative of the Security-General on Children in Armed Conflict, 36 UNRWA schools were damaged during Operation Cast Lead. 3

2. A number of examples from Operation Cast Lead follow which show the use Hamas and the other terrorist organizations made of schools, some of them belonging to UNRWA, for military-operational purposes.

Booby-Trapping a School in the Zeitun Neighborhood and Storing Weapons Nearby

Aerial photo of the region of the school in the Zeitun neighborhood in Gaza City 
Aerial photo of the region of the school in the Zeitun neighborhood in Gaza City

3. On January 6, 2009 , during IDF activity in the Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza City , weapons were found in a zoo near a school. Detonator cables were also found, leading to a back room where weapons were located.

Detonating system found in the school compound intended to be used to bobby-trap the school
Detonating system found in the school compound intended to be used to bobby-trap the school

Light arms and an RPG found in a cabin in the zoo near the school
Light arms and an RPG found in a cabin in the zoo near the school

Positioning Headquarters, Bases and Weapons 4

Positioning Headquarters, Bases and Weapons
Hamas headquarters (red) surrounded by schools (yellow) in Tel al-Hawa, southwest of Gaza City. In proximity to the headquarters and schools armed men were seen entering and leaving the Hamas compound.

Al-Jazeera TV's forum website
Hamas post and arms cache (red) near an UNRWA school (yellow) in Rafah. The military
facilities are about 25 and 10 meters from the school. The Hamas post is in the enlargement.

Training camps and a military camp near schools
Training camps and a military camp near schools in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City

Launching Rockets and Mortar Shells Near Schools

Launching Rockets and Mortar Shells Near Schools
UNRWA's Al-Fakhoura school in the Al-Atatra neighborhood in the northern Gaza Strip;
mortar shells were launched nearby (January 6, 2009)

Mortar shells launched near an UNRWA school in the refugee camp
Mortar shells launched near an UNRWA school in the refugee camp
in the central area of Gaza City

Launching rockets near schools in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City
Launching rockets near schools in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City . In proximity to the schools there are training camps, workshops for the manufacture of weapons and arms caches (red).

Rockets  launched near schools in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City
Rockets (red) launched near schools (yellow) in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City .
In proximity to the schools there are training camps, terrorist organization workshops
for the manufacture of weapons and arms caches (red).

Rockets Launched Near UNRWA Schools in the Town of Beit Hanoun before Operation Cast Lead 

4. Rockets were launched near UNRWA schools before Operation Cast Lead as well. For example, photographs taken by the Israeli Air Force on the morning of October 29, 2007 , show a three-man terrorist squad firing mortar shells from the yard of the central building of an educational complex in the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. ( Note : The region is often used by terrorists to launch rockets and mortar shells at communities in southern Israel .) The photographs show how the squad prepared the firing position and launched the mortar shells in close proximity to the building. After the launch the terrorists can be seen taking cover inside the building. 5 

The UNRWA School in Beit Hanoun as Photographed by the Israeli Air Force

The UNRWA School in Beit Hanoun as Photographed by the Israeli Air Force
Rocket launching squad positioned near the main building of an UNRWA educational complex in Beit Hanoun (Photographed by the Israeli Air Force and issued by the IDF Spokesman, October 31, 2007).

Additional evidence of the use of schools for military purposes

5. Information received during Operation Cast Lead and based in part on the interrogation of terrorist operatives captured by the IDF also indicated that rockets were fired near schools, that weapons were stored and hidden in them and that the schools were used as hiding places for terrorist operatives:

i) Rockets were fired into Israeli territory from a site close to the Al-Quds University in Beit Lahiya .

ii) The compound of the UNRWA school across from the Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis was used to launch rockets into Israel .

iii) A Hamas terrorist squad hid in the Fallujah School near Jabaliya. Apparently a number of anti-aircraft weapons were also stored there.

iv) Terrorists were seen firing rockets into Israeli territory from the American School in Al-Atatra .


1 The previous bulletins relating the use of Gazan civilians as human shields can be accessed at the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center website.

2 According to the UNRWA website, March 8, 2009 .

3 According to the Special Representative of the Security-General on Children in Armed Conflict for the Human Rights Council on Gaza and Southern Israel .

4 Hamas's military facilities, marked in the aerial photos, were attacked from the air by the Israeli Air Force, which made every effort not to harm civilians.

5 For further information see our November 4, 2007 bulletin entitled "A terrorist squad fired a mortar shell from within an educational complex in the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip” .

Additional Bulletins