Pro-Hamas groups — like the multi-campus Students for Justice in Palestine, whose national leadership endorsed the murderous October 7 attack as an “historic win for Palestinian resistance” — will never deliberately acknowledge Hamas’ true nature. But two of Hamas’s top officials just did.
One, Moussa Abu Marzouk, a prominent member of the Hamas political bureau, was asked in an interview why Hamas built over 300 miles of tunnels in the Gaza Strip but has never built bomb shelters for Gazan civilians.
“We built the tunnels because we are fighting from inside the tunnels,” Abu Marzouk replied. He offered no explanation at all as to why Hamas has not separately constructed bunkers for Gazan civilians below their apartment buildings, schools and workplaces.
Hamas certainly has the financial resources to protect Gazans. It receives $450 million per year just from taxes and unofficial fees on smuggled goods. But such protective structures would defeat the organization’s purpose. The value to Hamas of a Gazan human shield would be lost if the human shield were given a place to hide.
In the wake of Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre, Hamas is counting on human shields and the effect of their deaths on international opinion as their best way to restrain, if not halt, Israeli military force. Hamas considers two million Gazan civilians, including children, as martyrs, whether they want to be or not.
“We are called a nation of martyrs,” said another top Hamas official, Ghazi Hamad. “And we are proud to sacrifice martyrs.” He promised more attacks: “There will be a second, a third, a fourth.” When asked whether he sought the annihilation of Israel, Hamad matter-of-factly replied, “Yes, of course.”
This is not simply terrorism, which is the use of illegal violence to achieve political objectives. It is cold-blooded human sacrifice, and on a scale that evokes the ritual slaughters of ancient times.
Five days after the Oct. 7 attack, the IDF urged civilians in Gaza City to evacuate “south for your own safety and the safety of your families.” The message was delivered by air through 1.5 million leaflets and with tens of thousands of cell phone messages and phone calls. Hamas told Gazans to “remain steadfast in your homes,” and recently attacked Israeli forces attempting to open a corridor for evacuations from northern Gaza.
The International Red Cross, Amnesty International, and the UN Special Rapporteur for internally displaced persons also opposed evacuation, accusing Israel of violating international humanitarian law against “forced deportations.” To worsen matters, Israel initially induced a panic by failing to provide a clear timeline for the evacuations, failed to allow sufficient humanitarian aid into south Gaza (and enough aid is still not getting in), and continued air strikes in the south which, although significantly fewer than in the north, have struck some of the Gazans fleeing south.
Even so, as West Point scholar and international law expert Michael N. Schmitt pointed out more than two weeks ago, “The simple fact is that civilians who head south will be safer….Given this reality, it is bewildering that humanitarian organizations are not encouraging the civilian population to move away from what will be a destructive and deadly urban battle.” He found it equally mystifying that humanitarian organizations were not “condemning Hamas’s efforts to keep the civilians in place.”
Events have borne him out now that, in the north, the IDF has encircled Gaza City. The hundreds of thousands of northern Gazans who did not evacuate south now find themselves in the middle of an urban battlefield hellscape that some predict will be akin to the battles of Mosul, Fallujah, or even Stalingrad.
That is exactly where Hamas wants Gazan civilians to be — and with nowhere to hide.
Gregory J. Wallance was a federal prosecutor in the Carter and Reagan administrations and a member of the ABSCAM prosecution team, which convicted a U.S. senator and six representatives of bribery. His newest book, Into Siberia: George Kennan’s Epic Journey Through the Brutal, Frozen Heart of Russia, is due out in December. Follow on @GregoryWallance.
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