Top Hamas official declares group is not responsible for defending Gazan civilians

Moussa Abu Marzouk says vast underground tunnel network is for the protection of the terror group’s members, while civilians should be taken care of by the UN and Israel

Gianluca Pacchiani is the Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk, September 18, 2014. (AP/Khalil Hamra)
Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk, September 18, 2014. (AP/Khalil Hamra)

Moussa Abu Marzouk, a prominent member of Hamas’s political bureau, has declared that the terror group that rules Gaza is not responsible for protecting the Strip’s civilians, and said that the vast tunnel network underneath the enclave is only for the protection of Hamas terrorists.

In an interview with Russia Today’s Arabic channel on Friday, Abu Marzouk was asked why Hamas has dug 500 kilometers (310 miles) of tunnels in the territory it has ruled over since 2007, but has never built shelters for civilians to hide during bombings.

“We built the tunnels because we have no other way of protecting ourselves from being killed in airstrikes. We are fighting from inside the tunnels,” the Qatar-based official said, according to a segment of the interview translated and shared by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

“Seventy-five percent of the population of Gaza are refugees, and it is the UN’s responsibility to protect them,” Abu Marzouk added, referencing the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) that operates across Gaza, the West Bank and other Middle East countries to provide basic services to Palestinian refugees from 1948 and their millions of descendants, who are also regarded by the agency as refugees despite never being displaced during their lifetime.

Abu Marzouk claimed that it was Israel’s obligation to provide for the needs of the citizens of Gaza under the Geneva Convention, referring to the international agreement for the protection of noncombatants during armed conflicts. Hamas has fired tens of thousands of rockets aimed at Israeli cities over the past 20 years, in contravention of the same convention.

The Palestinian terror group also overtly targeted civilians earlier this month, when some 2,500 terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air and sea on October 7, killing over 1,400 people, mostly civilians butchered in their homes or at an outdoor music festival. They also seized at least 245 hostages of all ages, under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities.

In response to the October 7 massacres, Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas and its terror infrastructure above and under the ground, and to pursue every avenue to secure freedom for all of the hostages. It has urged civilians living in northern Gaza to evacuate to the south to better differentiate between combatants and civilians.

The chief of staff of the Iranian army claimed on Tuesday that 400 kilometers (248 miles) of Hamas tunnels run underneath the northern section of the Gaza Strip, and that some of them are broad enough for vehicles and motorcycles to pass through.

The Israeli military on Friday night revealed that several of the tunnels lead to Hamas’s underground base, located under Gaza’s Shifa hospital, the largest in the enclave, allowing Hamas officials to reach the base without having to enter the building above the ground.

An apprehended Hamas terrorist confirmed in an interrogation that Hamas uses hospitals and medical clinics because it knows that Israel won’t target them. The sites can be used to pass “explosives, weapons, food, medical equipment” for use by the terror group.

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