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meanwhile, in the middle east

Is Hamas using 'human shields' in its war against Israel?

Israel has often accused Hamas, the Islamist organization that runs Gaza, of purposefully putting Palestinian civilians in harm's way in order to elicit international sympathy. This war is no different.

The BBC reports that in the past 16 days of fighting, more than 750 Palestinians and 33 Israelis have been killed, and the U.N. has condemned both sides of the conflict. Now, The New York Times reports that Israel is condemning Hamas' practice of launching rockets from schools and other civilian buildings. Hamas members have also stored weapons in mosques and schools and created tunnels beneath private property.

"Hamas uses schools, residential buildings, mosques and hospitals to fire rockets at Israeli civilians," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this week, according to the Times. "Hamas uses innocent civilians as a human shield for terrorist activity."

The Times reports that Israel, meanwhile, has taken "precautions" to avoid killing civilians, but Israel has also targeted Hamas members in their homes as well as at their offices or at mosques, accepting civilian deaths as "inevitable." The Times also notes that there is no evidence of Hamas militants forcing civilians to remain in attack areas, which is the legal definition of "human shield" according to international law. Nevertheless:

[I]t is indisputable that Gaza militants operate in civilian areas, draw return fire to civilian structures, and on some level benefit in the diplomatic arena from the rising casualties. They also have at times encouraged residents not to flee their homes when alerted by Israel to a pending strike and, having prepared extensively for war, did not build civilian bomb shelters. [The New York Times]