June 10, 2024 | The Jerusalem Post

What are the implications of Hamas holding hostages in Gaza civilian homes?

It’s important to document how Hamas has unlawfully exploited and endangered civilian areas by holding hostages in them.
June 10, 2024 | The Jerusalem Post

What are the implications of Hamas holding hostages in Gaza civilian homes?

It’s important to document how Hamas has unlawfully exploited and endangered civilian areas by holding hostages in them.

Hamas has systematically used civilian homes to hold and hide hostages. This has become increasingly clear throughout the war in Gaza. The IDF said on June 9 that “it can be confirmed that Abdallah Aljamal was an operative in the Hamas terrorist organization, who held the hostages Almog Meir Jan, Andrey Kozlov, and Shlomi Ziv captive in his family home in Nuseirat.”

This is one of many examples of how Hamas has used civilian homes and it illustrates the apparently deep and broad support that the terrorist group has among civilians who are willing to endanger themselves for it.

According to the June 9 report, “the hostages were held captive by Abdallah Aljamal and members of his family in their home. This is further evidence of the deliberate use of civilian homes and buildings by the Hamas terrorist organization to hold Israeli hostages captive in the Gaza Strip.” Aljamal is just one example of how this process worked. In the other cases where hostages were rescued, in November and February, they were also rescued from civilian homes.

Civilians played a key role in the Hamas attack on October 7. They arrived in Israeli communities to loot and to commit crimes. They were seen kidnapping people in many videos, usually putting hostages on motorcycles.

The overall structure of how the civilian-Hamas network functions in Gaza has not been revealed and is probably not fully understood. For instance, one doctor who volunteered in Gaza returned in May with stories from many people he met in northern Gaza who do not support Hamas. However, he also painted a picture of how it controls hospitals and also controls the black market of stolen aid. He described a hospital in Gaza where one of the floors was a “VIP” section for those connected to Hamas.

Hamas has not only infiltrated hospitals: It has also exploited schools and other civilian institutions – and apparently often sends its members into UN facilities as well. One should conclude that many of the international organizations that work in Gaza are aware of the Hamas presence.

Anyone running a shelter or a school or hospital who sees dozens of men in their thirties and forties all going to a certain floor and taking it over, would conclude that it’s Hamas. If you run a shelter and one floor is reserved solely for men, rather than vulnerable women and children, then it becomes clear that these men are up to something.

The fact is that Hamas men would be easy to spot when they operate in groups, going into facilities or taking over certain classrooms or whole floors of buildings. Hamas operates like a mafia; the men don’t always carry guns, but they have access to them nearby.

Hamas’s exploitation of civilian environments for its interests

The role of civilians in backing up this Hamas network requires more investigation. However, it is clear that Hamas has been able to easily exploit the civilian environment for its own ends. Why do civilians agree to imprison hostages in their homes? Is it because they are affiliates of Hamas, are they being paid, or is there some other type of understanding?

Anyone who has seen films about the mafia understands that a mafia or cartel usually operates in civilian areas and that it is embedded in the civilian environment. Anyone who saw The Godfather: Part II recalls that scene where a young mafia member asks a man to hide some pistols for him; later they steal a carpet together.

This is the “gateway” for the civilian to enter the mafia world. How many civilians in Gaza have gone through this gateway? Many civilian homes in the Strip have tunnel shafts, munitions or weapons hidden in them. This is how Hamas has entrenched itself in the civilian environment.

This criminal activity of Hamas requires more study by international organizations and human rights groups. It’s important to document how the terrorist group has unlawfully exploited and endangered civilian areas through holding hostages in them and putting weapons in civilian homes.

The reluctance of many human rights groups and international groups to tackle the Hamas crimes in Gaza has enabled it to continue exploiting schools, hospitals and other locations. The recent raid that freed hostages in Nuseirat is evidence of how Hamas has brought ruin on Gaza. Many people were killed in the raid because Hamas has purposely embedded its criminal empire in densely populated areas, such as Nuseirat.

Seth Frantzman is the author of Drone Wars: Pioneers, Killing Machine, Artificial Intelligence and the Battle for the Future (Bombardier 2021) and an adjunct fellow at The Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Issues:

Israel Israel at War Military and Political Power