Hamas forced Gazans to remain in harm’s way

Mudran Zahran is a Palestinian writer and academic from Jordan who now resides in the UK as a political refugee. In the aftermath of the latest war between Israel and Hamas, he interviewed Gazans to find out what they had to say about the conflict. His report appears on the website of the Gatestone Institute.

According to Zahran, Gazans told him of atrocities and war crimes committed by Hamas. Their testimony confirms what seemed clear enough at the time — Hamas is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Gazan civilians.

Here is what a medical worker said:

The Israeli army sends warnings to people to evacuate buildings before an attack. The Israelis either call or send a text message. Sometimes they call several times to make sure everyone has been evacuated.

Hamas’s strict policy, though, was not to allow us to evacuate. Many people got killed, locked inside their homes by Hamas militants.

Hamas’s official Al-Quds TV regularly issued warnings to Gazans not to evacuate their homes. Hamas militants would block the exits to the places residents were asked to evacuate. In the Shijaiya area, people received warnings from the Israelis and tried to evacuate the area, but Hamas militants blocked the exits and ordered people to return to their homes.

Some of the people had no choice but to run towards the Israelis and ask for protection for their families. Hamas shot some of those people as they were running; the rest were forced to return to their homes and get bombed. This is how the Shijaiya massacre happened. More than 100 people were killed.

A Gazan journalist told Zahran:

Hamas fired rockets from next to homes. Hamas was running from one home to another. Hamas lied when it claimed it was shooting from non-populated areas.

To make things even worse for us, Hamas would fire from the balconies of homes and try to drag the Israelis into door-to-door battles and street-to-street fights — a death sentence for all the civilians here. They would fire rockets and then run away quickly, leaving us to face Israeli bombs for what they did.

They are cowards. If Hamas militants are not afraid of dying, why do they run after they fire rockets from our homes? Why don’t they stay and die with us? Are they afraid to die and go to heaven? Isn’t that what they claim they wish?

Hamas “held the whole Gazan population as a human shield,” according to a graduate student:

Hamas imposed a curfew: anyone walking out in the street was shot. That way people had to stay in their homes, even if they were about to get bombed.

Worse than that, Hamas wanted the shield to fail. A former Hamas ministry officer explained:

Hamas wanted us butchered so it could win the media war against Israel showing our dead children on TV and then get money from Qatar.

Despite Hamas’ monopoly on military power within Gaza, there were protests against its deadly, inhumane tactics. A shop owner told Zahran:

There were two major protests against Hamas during the third week of the war. When Hamas fighters opened fire at the protesters in the Bait Hanoun area and the Shijaiya, five were killed instantly. I saw that with my own eyes.

Many were injured. A doctor at Shifa hospital told me that 35 were killed at both protests. He went and saw their bodies at the morgue.

A Gazan academic agreed that Hamas exterminated protesters and critics:

Hamas did kill protesters, no doubt about that. But we could not confirm how many were actually killed. If I have to guess, the number was more than reported.

I am confident that not all of the 21 men Hamas killed on August 22 were collaborating with Israel. Hamas killed those men because it was weakened by Israel’s attacks and felt endangered. So it went on a ‘Salem Witch-Hunt.’

They arrested everyone who opposed them and had to make a few examples to scare people from standing against Hamas. Hamas’s tactic worked. Now Gazans are afraid to talk against Hamas even in front of their own family members.

Our mainstream media failed to provide any true sense of Hamas’ brutality towards the people of Gaza. I attribute this, in large part, to anti-Israel bias.

However, as Zahran points out, Hamas made it difficult for western reporters to get the real story. One prominent Gazan academic told Zahran:

Hamas terrorizes and kills us just like Daesh [ISIS] terrorizes kills Iraqis. Hamas is a dictatorship that kills us. The Gazans you see praising Hamas on TV are either Hamas members or too afraid to speak against Hamas. Few foreign [Western] journalists were probably able to report what Gazans think of Hamas. . . .

But even though Western journalists may not have been able to speak freely with Gazans, they still need a story to send to their editor by the end of the day. So it is just easier and safer for them to stick to the official line — Blame Israel.

How was Zahran able to talk to so many Gazans? As a Palestinian himself, he had friends in the West Bank offer introductions to their relatives in Gaza.

Western journalists can’t obtain such access. But in my view, this doesn’t fully excuse their inability to report Hamas’ terrorism against the people of Gaza some of which surely occurred more or less in plain view.