Israel accuses Hamas of using Gaza civilians as human shields

WATCH: It’s another sleepless night for people in the Middle East as rockets continue to be fired from the Gaza Strip and Israel increases its air raids. As the death toll mounts, the UN warns the worst may be yet to come. Stuart Greer and Eric Sorensen have team coverage.

Allegations Hamas is using civilians as human shields were further fuelled by a video appearing to encourage people in Gaza to go to their rooftops ahead of Israeli air strikes.

In an interview with the Hamas-run television network al-Aqsa, Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri heralded those who took such measures.

“The policy of people confronting the Israeli warplanes with their bare chests in order to protect their homes has proven effective against the occupation,” Zuhri said in the interview Wednesday, translated by the Washington D.C.-based The Middle East Media Research Institute.

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“This attests to the character of our noble, Jihad-fighting people, who defend their rights and their homes with their bare chests and their blood,” he said.

The debate over whether Hamas is encouraging civilians to act as human shields played out at the UN Security Council on Thursday.

“Israel is taking great measures to avoid harming innocent civilians,” UN envoy Ron Prosor said, explaining the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) warns civilians in Gaza of “imminent strikes.”

READ MORE: Gaza death toll from Israeli strikes hits 90

“At the same time, Hamas instructs these civilians to stand on the roof of those buildings and [act] as human shields,” he continued. “Hamas is exploiting our concern for human life by hiding in Palestinian homes, schools and mosques, and using the basement of the hospital in Gaza as its headquarters.”
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The IDF also accused Hamas of launching rocket attacks from civilian areas.

The Palestinian envoy called the claims “audacious” and said Israel “knowingly and intentionally strikes at densely populated civilian areas.”

In a stern warning, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned all sides for the loss of civilian lives in Gaza.

“Once again, Palestinian civilians are caught between Hamas’s irresponsibility and Israel’s tough response,” Moon said Thursday.

Israel, itself, faced criticism in 2010 on the issue of human shields, over the sentencing of two IDF soldiers who were convicted of using a Palestinian boy as a human shield during the 2008-2009 offensive in Gaza.

“The Israeli southern command military court indicted the two staff sergeants in March for separating nine-year-old Majed R. from his mother and ordering him at gunpoint to open bags suspected of containing booby-trapped bombs in the Tel al-Hawa neighbourhood, south of Gaza City, on January 15, 2009,” Human Rights Watch reported, noting an Israeli military court convicted the soldiers of “exceeding authority of endangering life or health.”

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The two soldiers were given three-month suspended sentences, according to the New York-based organization.

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