Oct. 7 'meticulously choreographed spectacle of savagery, sadism'

Hagari: Hamas deeply embedded among civilians, stages attacks from humanitarian zones

In Wall Street Journal op-ed, IDF spokesperson says military fights in Gaza with ‘heavy heart’ and is ‘aware of the tragic loss of civilian lives’

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari speaks to the press at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023. (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP)
IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari speaks to the press at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023. (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP)

Palestinian terror group Hamas is deeply embedded among non-combatants in Gaza and has deliberately built its terror infrastructure in civilian areas across the enclave, said IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari on Monday.

In a op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Hagari wrote that four months into the ground invasion in Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces has found that “Hamas has systematically embedded its terror infrastructure inside and under civilian areas in Gaza as part of its human-shield strategy” and operates in civilian areas and humanitarian zones to stage attacks.

“IDF troops discovered that most homes in Gaza have terror tunnels underneath or weapon caches inside, and the majority of schools, mosques, hospitals and international institutions have been used by Hamas for their military operations,” he said.

Hamas, which has ruled Gaza for 16 years, “has forced Gazans to stay in active combat zones by blocking their attempts to move out of harm’s way. When civilians manage to reach the safer areas to which we guide them, Hamas then moves to those areas, turning humanitarian zones into staging areas for further attacks,” he said

The terror group’s modus operandi also involves “instructing terrorists to dress in civilian clothes” and “waging war from inside and underneath hospitals” to exploit international law and public sympathy as “a shield for their military activities.”

Israel’s military, he said, was fighting a complex war in the Palestinian enclave “with a heavy heart” and is “aware of the tragic loss of civilian lives on both sides.”

Palestinians displaced by the Israeli ground offensive on the Gaza Strip walk through a flooded makeshift tent camp in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024. (AP/Mohammed Dahman)

Hamas’s unverified figures point to around 30,000 Gazans killed in the war, or slightly over 1 percent of the Strip’s total estimated population, since the start of the war on October 7, triggered by the terror group’s unprecedented massacre across southern Israel when terrorists killed 1,200 and took 253 hostages.

Israel says at least 12,000 of those in the death toll were terror operatives.

Israel has repeatedly argued that the military makes significant efforts to minimize the deaths of Gazan civilians, including through evacuations of combat zones, and that Hamas actively uses Palestinian civilians as human shields, including by locating operations bases under hospitals, launching rockets from schools and shelters, building tunnels shafts under children’s bedrooms, storing weapons in and around schools and mosques, and more, amid the ongoing war.

Captured Hamas terrorists have confirmed some of the human shield claims, explaining for example that Hamas knows Israel will not target hospitals, medical centers and facilities.

Israeli soldiers show the media an underground tunnel found underneath Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, November 22, 2023. (AP/Victor R. Caivano, File)

In his op-ed Sunday, Hagari noted the contrast of Hamas’s strategy of using human shields to the murderous rampage by thousands of Hamas-led terrorists on October 7, which he describes as a “meticulously choreographed spectacle of savagery and sadism” that saw Hamas “mercilessly murder, butcher, rape and burn Israeli families alive — documenting their crimes with GoPros and cellphones.”

“The terrorists even live-streamed their atrocities on their victims’ social media accounts,” Hagari said, adding the unprecedented shock onslaught was “arguably the most well-documented attack in history.”

In addition to the bodycam and cellphone footage taken by terrorists themselves as well as surveillance videos showing the indiscriminate killings on October 7, in some cases terrorists used their victims’ social media profiles to post live-streamed terror and murder.

Hagari wrote that once “the fighting shifted to Gaza, Hamas went from massacring Israeli civilians to hiding behind Gazan civilians.”

Footage from the GoPro camera of a Hamas terrorist, on October 7, 2023. (Screen capture/X used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

“Our war is against Hamas, not against the people of Gaza, which is why we take extensive measures to minimize harm to the civilians Hamas puts in the crossfire. We are fighting this war with a heavy heart, aware of the tragic loss of civilian lives on both sides,” wrote Hagari, reiterating Israel’s war goals to “dismantle Hamas and bring our hostages home” and “not to destroy Gaza or displace its people.”

Israel’s strategy, he said, is “consistent and clear: Ensure that Oct. 7 never happens again.”

It is believed that 130 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November, and four hostages were released prior to that. Three hostages have been rescued by troops alive, and the bodies of 11 hostages have also been recovered, including three mistakenly killed by the military. The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 31 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

One more person is listed as missing since October 7, and their fate is still unknown.

Hamas is also holding the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014, as well as two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to be alive after entering the Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

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