Now that fierce fighting has resumed in Gaza, international pressure is building on Israel to curb its military campaign and abandon its objective of crushing Hamas. The humanitarian goal of these demands is to protect innocent Palestinians. The political goal is to appease some Muslim states and appeal to anti-Israel “progressives” and Muslims in Europe and North America.
What these demands seldom mention is the cost of leaving in place a terrorist organisation bent on killing civilians, taking hostages, using civilians to shield its own fighters, and doing its best to wipe Israel off the map. The intense pressure on the Jewish state is not matched by that on Hamas.
This sharp asymmetry in political pressure is particularly evident in the fighting around Gazan hospitals. Intense battles have been waged at close quarters in and around the Indonesian Hospital, Al-Shifa (Gaza’s largest), and Al-Rantisi, among others.
News of that fighting is heartbreaking. Medical centers should be places of sanctuary. They have become sites of battle because they are useful for Hamas, which has turned patients and hospital workers into human shields and medical buildings into hiding places for terrorists, weapons, and tunnels.
Hamas uses hospitals like this for three reasons. The terrorist organisation knows that Israel has serious moral reservations about attacking civilian facilities and risking harm to innocents, a reservation not shared by Hamas militants willing to use their own people as human shields. Hospital traffic is also the perfect place to conceal the movement of terrorists and their supplies, a fact often excluded from debates over Israeli strategy. Resultantly, when the IDF launches strategic strikes, they pay a huge price in public opinion.
The terrorists’ reliance on Israel’s moral scruples is especially cynical. The very fact that there is fighting inside hospitals proves Hamas is entrenched there. If they were not present, the IDF could have moved in swiftly, without firing a shot, and secured the buildings for doctors and patients. If Hamas were using the buildings but not holding Palestinian civilians there as human shields, the IDF could use standoff weapons to destroy terrorists by bombing the buildings that house them, without harming civilians.
Hamas has made that impossible. The terrorists have surrounded themselves with innocent civilians inside hospitals. Knowing that, Israel risks the lives of its soldiers to infiltrate these structures, take down Hamas fighters, one by one, and destroy their terror tunnels underneath. Put bluntly, Israel risks the lives of its own soldiers to spare the lives of innocent Palestinians. Their terrorist enemy does the exact opposite. It uses innocent civilians to protect its soldiers.
Despite the IDF’s precautions, non-combatants are inevitably killed in the fighting. That is a profound human tragedy. But it is Hamas, not Israel, which has chosen to make local hospitals into military fortresses. It is Israel, not Hamas, which has tried to minimise the loss of innocent lives. Intention matters here, and the terrorists’ intentions are evil incarnate.
Why doesn’t Israel simply declare hospitals “no go zones,” where it will not fight, even though Hamas is entrenched there? Because doing so would effectively cede victory to the terrorists. It would entice all fleeing Hamas fighters to flock to hospitals, ensuring the terrorist organization remained strong enough to govern Gaza and launch new, lethal attacks against Israeli civilians. No Israeli government could allow that. Nor should they.
International audiences have every right to demand evidence the terrorists are actually using the hospitals. That’s fine. What’s not fine is refusing to assess that evidence fairly and rejecting even the most credible documentation. Nor is it fine for major international humanitarian agencies and UN bureaucracies to remain silent and cowardly, as they have, about terrorists committing war crimes by misusing these hospitals.
Israel is meeting international demands for evidence, providing more and more documentation that terrorists have infiltrated hospitals to hide fighters, weapons, and command centers. US intelligence services have independently reached the same verdict, concluding Hamas is using the hospitals for a variety of military purposes.
Israel has also taken extraordinary steps to prove to skeptical audiences that it is not fabricating the evidence. The IDF often takes Western reporters along, for example, as it uncovers tunnels and weapons caches in and around hospitals. When the IDF records these raids, it takes continuous shots to prove the video has not been edited.
That hasn’t stopped Hamas’ shouts of “Fake! Fake!” It hasn’t stopped similar yelps from its supporters in the West and the Muslim world. They routinely accuse the IDF of faking the material or vastly exaggerating its importance. The goal of these rejectionists is not rational discussion, debate, or evidence. It is the extermination of what they consider an alien presence in the Middle East: the Jews and the state they have built.
Although these rejectionists stress their humanitarian concerns, the deeper reason they hate Israel’s fight against the terrorists is because they hate a permanent Jewish state in the Middle East. The progressives who join these demonstrations say they are committed to “social justice.” They have somehow convinced themselves that loathing Israel is part of that mission. In doing so, they have mindlessly reversed the slogan “Might makes right.” Ethical conduct and political power are fundamentally different matters.
This focus on hospitals doesn’t mean they are the only civilian structures occupied by terrorists. They also use schools and mosques as hiding places, command centers, and weapons-storage facilities. Those sites are more than convenient buildings. Like hospitals, they become propaganda tools when Israel attacks terrorists within them. Bombing schools seems cruel punishment of innocent children, even though Israel tries to make sure only Hamas fighters are present.
The hospitals are part of a war terrorists are fighting on all fronts. If innocent Palestinians die in the fighting, Hamas uses them to win international support for their cause and smear Israel. We in the West cannot lose sight of this reality: the IDF’s terrorist opponents are willing to place their own people in harm’s way. So why is it so difficult to believe they’re also willing to lie?