Editorial: Civilian casualties part of Hamas’ terror plan

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Early news reports are the first draft of history, and Hamas’ effort to blame Israel for an explosion at a Gaza hospital are collapsing under scrutiny. It’s also vital to understand that there’s a vast gulf between trying to minimize civilian casualties and encouraging them as a propaganda tool.

Hundreds were killed last Tuesday in Gaza City at a hospital crowded with people seeking safe haven. U.S. intelligence officials say the explosion came from a rocket launched by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group that went off prematurely.

“Among the evidence that’s been gathered is a blast analysis that suggests it was a ground explosion rather than an airstrike that hit the hospital,” a source told CNN. “There was no singular crater suggesting there was a bomb, but there was extensive fire damage and scattered debris that is consistent with an explosion starting from the ground level, according to the source.”

Israel also released an audio recording that it said caught Hamas operatives discussing the blast.

The loss of innocent lives is a horrific tragedy no matter its inevitability during war. Yet while Israel takes steps to curtail the civilian death toll, its enemies do the opposite. The initial attack on Israel was indiscriminate and brutal, calculated to kill innocent men, women and children. Hamas has also taken innocent Israelis — and Americans — hostage and threatened to broadcast executions. This is barbarism.

It’s also part of a strategy that promotes civilian deaths — and it has been going on for two decades.

“When used as human shields, civilians provide cover for Hamas military activities, and the resultant casualties serve the group’s propaganda interests,” Jeffrey White wrote for The Washington Institute in 2014. “In short, Hamas is acting more like a guerrilla group fighting an insurgency than a government responsible for the safety of its citizenry.”

As White notes, there are steps Hamas terrorists could take — wearing uniforms, moving weapons from populated areas, staying out of civilian buildings — if they chose to lower the civilian death count. Instead, they emphasize such tactics.

A decade ago, Hamas provoked Israel by firing rockets into the country without regard for innocents. Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic came to the obvious conclusion. “Hamas is trying to get Israel to kill as many Palestinians as possible,” he wrote. “Dead Palestinians represent a crucial propaganda victory for the nihilists of Hamas. It is perverse, but true. It is also the best possible explanation for Hamas’ behavior, because Hamas has no other plausible strategic goal here.”

The words ring true today. Israel has a right to defend itself and its people. Hamas wants to kill innocents and push Israel into the sea. The latter is the problem.

Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service


Editorial cartoon by Steve Kelley (Creators Syndicate)


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