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The Israel-Hamas War: Operation Iron Sword
Gazans Speak Out About Hamas

(October 7- , 2023 - Present)
By Mitchell Bard

The combination of the IDF dismantling Hamas and the destruction the terrorists had brought upon the civilians led more Gazans to speak candidly about being used as human shields. Some were particularly enraged after seeing a video posted by the IDF showing Yahya Sinwar hiding in a tunnel in Khan Yunis and fleeing with his family.

Mustafa Asfur wrote on X, “He built tunnels to hide in for him, his children, his wife and those who surround them. He left the men, women, and children of his people to struggle with death above ground while he enjoyed himself with his family below.”

Palestinian journalist Jehad al-Saftawi posted on X, “Hamas terrorists used my family and hundreds of our neighbors as human shields. Hamas continues to hold the people of Gaza captive.”

In a Time magazine article, al-Saftawi wrote about discovering that masked men were building a tunnel in his house. “We don’t want to live above a stockpile of weapons,” he said. The digging continued. He learned that the house had been destroyed in the fighting after October 7, which he called “the legacy of Hamas.” He said, “They began destroying my family home in 2013 when they built tunnels beneath it. They continued to threaten our safety for a decade.... Hamas is not fighting Israel. They’re destroying Gaza.”

Al-Saftawi made clear civilians knew about Hamas building tunnels. He said his neighbor told him she saw a vehicle arrive every few nights with men who worked behind a tarp. She “felt the vibrations of digging coming from the empty piece of land behind our houses” and “suspected someone was digging a tunnel.”

In a clip from Al-Jazeera, a wounded Palestinian man is cut off after he said, “What’s happening is criminal! Why is the resistance (Hamas) hiding among us? Why don’t they go to hell and hide there? They are not resistance!!”

The Center for Peace Communications (CPC), a NY-based nonprofit organization working with The Free Press, initiated a “Voices from Gaza” project to publicize the views of civilians who previously were too scared to speak out about Hamas. The widow of a man killed in an Israeli airstrike, for example, railed against Hamas. “The Israelis drop these leaflets offering cash rewards to anyone who can provide the whereabouts of  Sinwar,” the woman said. “I swear, if I knew where he was, I’d bring them Sinwar’s head for free.”

On February 20, 2024, videos circulated showing protestors chanting anti-Hamas slogans. One chant was, “Sinwar, Haniyeh, the people are the victims. Down with Hamas! Down with Hamas!” Another was “Sinwar tell Haniyeh that the people are the victims. Go away, Sinwar! Listen, listen, Haniyeh, go back to Turkey. Listen, Listen, Hamdan, go back to Lebanon.”