In interrogation, ex-Hamas operative says group uses Gaza civilians as human shields

Suspects captured by troops in Gaza Strip detail incidents of Hamas’s use of civilians for terror operations, including one in which group forced men to hospital to hide among them

Zahdy Ali Zahdy Shahin, identified by the IDF as a former Hamas operative, is seen in an interrogation video published January 1, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Zahdy Ali Zahdy Shahin, identified by the IDF as a former Hamas operative, is seen in an interrogation video published January 1, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces on Monday released new interrogation videos of Palestinian terror suspects who were captured by troops in the Gaza Strip, detailing Hamas’s use of civilians as cover for terror operations.

Israel has repeatedly said Hamas was using 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 embedding itself within civilians amid the ongoing war, triggered by the terror group’s October 7 massacre in southern Israel when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took 240 hostages.

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.

On Monday, the IDF released a video of Zahdy Ali Zahdy Shahin, identified by the military as a former Hamas operative, who told interrogators of the Military Intelligence Directorate’s Unit 504 that he felt “we were being used as human shields.”

Shahin described an incident in which he says he was heading from northern Gaza to the Strip’s south in the humanitarian corridor set up by Israel when apparent Hamas gunmen pulled him and other civilians aside and brought them to al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

He said he and other civilians were on the ground floor of the hospital, and once IDF forces reached the medical center, Hamas operatives came out from tunnels and hid among the sheltering civilians.

IDF soldiers operate at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City in a handout photo distributed on November 15, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

Shahin said he even argued with one of the Hamas operatives. “I told him ‘Your place isn’t up here with the civilians, but below. Why did you come up?’”

“He started to threaten me, said when the war ends he would settle the score,” he told the interrogator.

Another detainee, Muhammad Darwish Amara, who is identified by the IDF as a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, said Hamas fighters took over his home.

Amara said he was sheltering in a school in northern Gaza, and told his son to check their home every couple of days to ensure nobody was breaking in to steal their belongings.

“He entered the apartment, opened the door, and there was a mess. He looks and sees young men sleeping in my apartment,” Amara told the Unit 504 interrogator, claiming that they were Hamas fighters.

Amara said he did not give approval for Hamas to use his home to fight against the IDF.

“We left the apartment and they took control of it. On the upper floor where my son lives… a sniper was sitting by the window, and in the other room, there were several [operatives]. He said there were more than 20 people [in the apartment], their weapons thrown on the floor,” he said.

Muhammad Darwish Amara, identified by the IDF as a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, is seen in an interrogation video published January 1, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Recalling a separate incident he was told about, Amara told the interrogator that a Hamas operative tried to place an explosive device a few meters away from the home of an acquaintance.

He said the homeowner saw the operative placing the bomb “and went down and told him, ‘How are you placing an explosive by the door’?”

Amara claimed the Hamas operative responded to the man, saying, “If this doesn’t suit you, leave, this is none of your business.”

“He told [the Hamas operative], ‘How is this not my business? These are my children; this is not OK.’ And the [Hamas operative] responded saying, ‘I’ll place the explosive even if it doesn’t suit you, I’ll even place it between you and your wife,’” Amara claimed, adding that the Hamas operative then shot the homeowner in the leg.

Israel says its ongoing offensive against Hamas in Gaza is aimed at destroying the terror group’s infrastructure amid vows to eliminate the entire terror group, which rules the Strip. It says it is targeting all areas where Hamas operates, while seeking to minimize civilian casualties.

The use of human shields is part of Hamas’s “core strategy,” say senior Israeli military officials

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry claims more than 20,000 people have been killed in the Strip during the war, an unverified figure that also does not differentiate between combatants and civilians and does not take into account those killed as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires. Hamas has never said how many of its members have been killed. It has claimed that some 70% of the Gazan fatalities are women and children.

According to Israeli assessments, troops have killed some 8,500 terror operatives since the war began. Another 1,000 Hamas terrorists were killed in Israel on or in the days after October 7.

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