Finding Hamas Tunnel Near Gaza Building, Israel Threatened Attack - but Didn’t Say When

Army can’t issue vague, open warnings to civilians, it has to be specific about time and place of impending attacks, says lawyer

Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Aerial photos the IDF posted of the buildings that they defined as in danger
Aerial photos the Israeli army posted of the buildings that they defined as in dangerCredit: IDF Spokesman's Arabic-language Facebook
Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

After Islamist militants dug a tunnel near a building in Gaza, its residents were informed that the Israeli army was planning on demolishing it. However, the residents say, the army never told them when it was planning to attack the tunnel - which they claim is a violation of international law.

In August, Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, warned on an Arabic-language Facebook page that the army had found two “terror tunnels”, one passing beneath a mosque and one that went next to the apartment building in the Gaza town of Beit Lahia.

He warned that Israeli army forces could attack the tunnel shafts and the surrounding buildings, and that civilian lives could be at risk.

Two days after the Facebook post, some of the building’s residents received phone calls from a person identified only as “Israeli army intelligence,” repeating the message.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been building tunnels under Gaza for years. They are used for either smuggling in supplies from Egypt or burrowed towards the Israeli border in hopes of using them to attack Israelis.

Now one of the building’s residents, Mahmoud Hamoud Mohammed Hamed, is arguing that the IDF’s conduct violates international law. His lawyer, Muna Haddad of the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, argues that the Facebook post cannot serve, or be considered as, fair warning to a civilian population. In effect, the army isn’t threatening Hamas, she claims, but civilians.

Hamed lives in the building with his family, wrote Haddad, and since August the family has been living in fear for their lives, concerned that at any time the army could attack. “Following the threat, some family members left the home and moved in with relatives. Others can’t afford alternative housing and live under the threat of attack. My client doesn’t know anything about tunnels beneath him,” Haddad said.

Since 2009, the IDF has had a policy they have termed “knock on the roof”. It’s purpose is to alert civilians living in the site of a planned attack to evacuate.

Unlike previous “knock on the door" cases however, the army didn’t cite a time frame for the residents to evacuate, Haddad said.

International law forbids armies to threaten to attack civilians, but it does allow military forces to give civilians time to flee – stating the time of a planned attack and where it will take place.

But the Israeli army legal counsel claims it is obeying Israeli and international law, stating: “The publications [warnings] relate to the Hamas organization using of residential buildings for military purposes, knowingly risking the civilian population of Gaza Strip. In this state of affairs, the tunnels constitute a legitimate military target that can be attacked under the laws governing war.”

The office of the Coordinator of Israeli Army Activities in the Territories has removed the warning post from the Facebook page, stating only that the post was removed recently for reasons not connected to the complaint against its legality.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN


Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

The projected rise in sea level on a beach in Haifa over the next 30 years.

Facing Rapid Rise in Sea Levels, Israel Could Lose Large Parts of Its Coastline by 2050

Tal Dilian.

As Israel Reins in Its Cyberarms Industry, an Ex-intel Officer Is Building a New Empire

Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III and a British synagogue.

How the Queen’s Death Changes British Jewry’s Most Distinctive Prayer

Newly appointed Israeli ambassador to Chile, Gil Artzyeli, poses for a group picture alongside Rabbi Yonatan Szewkis, Chilean deputy Helia Molina and Gerardo Gorodischer, during a religious ceremony in a synagogue in Vina del Mar, Chile last week.

Chile Community Leaders 'Horrified' by Treatment of Israeli Envoy

Queen Elizabeth attends a ceremony at Windsor Castle, in June 2021.

Over 120 Countries, but Never Israel: Queen Elizabeth II's Unofficial Boycott