Mosques Used for Military Operations, Say Hamas POWs

The IDF strikes two Gaza mosques and rocket launchers situated near a school and a health clinic.

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The rubble of the Omar Ibn Abdul Aziz mosque in Gaza City, which was destroyed on August 25.Credit: AP

Hamas militants captured during the fighting in Gaza have admitted under interrogation that the organization uses mosques for its military activity and that tunnels have been built near kindergartens and clinics, the Shin Bet said on Monday.

The agency has documented dozens of the interrogations on its website, citing the questioned men by name. Altogether, it said, the captured men told of more than 10 mosques where military activity took place.

For instance, Mohammed Ramadan of Khan Yunis said that he was trained to fire antitank missiles in a room under the town’s Al-Shafi Mosque earlier this year. Hamas ran a training base there, which was closed to everyone except members of its military wing, he said.

Mohammed al-Kadra, also of Khan Yunis, said local mosques were used to store weapons, including rocket-propelled grenade launchers and Kalashnikov rifles.

“Everyone knew” that senior Hamas officials were hiding in hospitals, Al-Kadra said, a statement echoed by captives from other parts of Gaza. Samir Abu Luli of Rafah said guards stationed by Hamas at the Al-Najar hospital barred access to certain areas of the institution.

The IDF struck two mosques and a rocket launcher that was shooting at Israel from a school in Gaza City’s Shujaiyeh neighborhood on Monday. One of the mosques was being used to store rockets and the other was serving as a meeting place for terrorists, the army said.

The army also revealed that rocket launchers next to a health clinic in the al-Shati refugee camp had been attacked. Palestinians fired rockets from the site at the Tel Aviv region on Saturday, the IDF said.

A senior officer described the location of the launchers as “a classic humanitarian trap.”

“Beyond doubt, Hamas deliberately builds its launch compounds in a civilian environment, so that we’ll fire at and hit United Nations facilities and schools,” he said. “This is proof of Hamas’ cynical exploitation of the civilian population.”

A senior IDF officer said the army is currently trying to target Palestinians who are in charge of rocket and mortar fire for an entire sector, rather than chasing after each individual launcher.

“The goal of the fighting isn’t to finish off every last launcher; the goal is to convince the other side to say ‘enough,’” he said, adding that he thought Hamas was close to that point. “How much it has left in its arsenal doesn’t matter.”

On Monday the IDF struck a car in Gaza which it said was carrying terrorists from the Army of Islam who were planning an imminent attack. The Shin Bet security service said the Army of Islam works closely with Hamas and is essentially under its aegis. The Palestinian news agency Ma’an said three people were killed in this attack – Ahmed al-Dali and brothers Bassem and Ahmed Hejazi – and seven wounded.

Palestinian sources said three other people had been killed by IDF attacks in Gaza overnight – a woman in Beit Lahia and two people in Gaza City.

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