October 13, 2023 | Flash Brief

Hamas Urges Gazans to Stay Despite Israeli Calls to Evacuate

October 13, 2023 | Flash Brief

Hamas Urges Gazans to Stay Despite Israeli Calls to Evacuate

Latest Developments

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on October 13 advised residents of northern Gaza to go to the southern half of the territory within 24 hours to minimize civilian casualties in anticipation of an IDF escalation. The IDF dropped leaflets over Gaza City, while Hamas and Gaza mosques broadcast messages to stay put. An estimated 1.1 million Gazans live in the evacuation area, which covers all the territory north of Wadi Gaza. Later that day, Israeli troops began localized raids to root out Hamas terrorists and take back Israeli hostages.

Hamas, whose surprise attack on Israeli civilians on October 7 sparked the conflict, urged residents to ignore the IDF’s warning and to stay in place. In previous conflicts with Israel, Hamas used civilians as human shields, operating from schools, hospitals, and residential buildings. Despite Hamas’ warnings and calls by international diplomats for Israel to rescind the order, Gazans fled en masse to southern Gaza throughout the day.

Expert Analysis

“John Kirby, the U.S. National Security Council spokesman, was correct today when he said that Hamas’ urging of Palestinians in Gaza to remain at home means Hamas is using these civilians as human shields. The use of human shields is a war crime. Hamas is engaging in this war crime in order to facilitate falsely accusing the Israel Defense Forces of engaging in war crimes, such as the deliberate killing of civilians.” Orde Kittrie, FDD Senior Fellow

“Despite suffering the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust, Israel is doing everything possible to minimize civilian casualties. Yet it’s the Iran-backed Hamas terrorist organization committing more war crimes by using civilians as human shields — and the government of Egypt that won’t open a civilian corridor. Every death in Gaza is more blood on Hamas and Iran’s hands, not Israel’s.” Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

Human Shields

Terrorist groups use human shields to cause Western militaries, such as Israel’s, to either refrain from lawful attacks or risk being blamed for civilian casualties that are in fact the fault of the terrorist group. This time, Hamas is using not only Gazan civilians as human shields but also the more than 150 people it has kidnapped from Israel.

Violating U.S. and International Law

Whenever Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah use civilians to shield their weapons or fighters from lawful attack, the terror groups commit a war crime, violating the Fourth Geneva Convention and customary international law. During the May 2021 Gaza conflict, the Associated Press found that “Palestinian fighters are clearly operating in built-up residential areas and have positioned tunnels, rocket launchers, and command and control infrastructure near schools, mosques, and homes.”

In 2018, Congress unanimously passed the Sanctioning the Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields (SHIELDS) Act, which requires the president to identify and impose sanctions against members of organizations known to use human shields. On October 10, Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Brad Sherman (D-CA) introduced the Strengthening Tools to Counter the Use of Human Shields Act, which strengthens the SHIELDS Act’s implementation and enforcement.

Hold Hamas Accountable for Human-Shields Use During the May 2021 Gaza War,” by Orde Kittrie

How Congress can fight Hamas’s use of human shields,” by Orde Kittrie and Matthew Zweig

Anticipating Blinken Visit, Abbas Belatedly Condemns Violence Against Civilians,” FDD Flash Brief


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