The McGowan Davis/Schabas Inquiry: The UN Legal Pogrom

Hamas and the United Nations

Hamas use of Palestinians as human shields

The Law


During the Gaza War of 2014, Hamas used Palestinian civilians as human shields, a war crime under international humanitarian law.

"The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations." Geneva Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, August 12, 1949, Article 28

"The presence or movements of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations, in particular in attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favour or impede military operations. The Parties to the conflict shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations." Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), June 8, 1977, Article 51 (7)

Specific Examples of Hamas Using Palestinians as Human Shields


  • August 7, 2014, IDF blog:

    "The terrorist organization deliberately placed Palestinians in the line of fire in order to exploit civilian casualties in the international arena."

  • August 4, 2014, IDF blog:

    "Hamas used populated areas of Gaza to launch attacks against Israel. Aware that rocket launching sites could be the targets of Israeli counterstrikes, Hamas has never stopped firing rockets from mosques, school, hospitals and other civilian areas."

  • August 8, 2014, IDF blog:

    "Terrorists continuously placed weapons in, and launched rockets and mortars from, the direct vicinity of UNRWA facilities, including schools."

  • July 30, 2014, The Times of Israel:

    "...three IDF soldiers were killed in Gaza in an explosion at a booby-trapped health clinic that housed a tunnel entry shaft."

  • July 27, 2014, IDF blog:

    "Hamas booby trapped Palestinian houses. The IDF repeatedly discovered civilian homes and structures used by Hamas to store weapons and rig explosives."

  • July 24, 2014, IDF blog:

    "Hamas also hid rockets in civilian homes and buried the launchers underground in residential neighborhoods. Soldiers from the Nahal Brigade discovered these rocket launchers buried in the grounds of an agricultural school in Beit Hanoun."

UN Secretary-General Issues a Report Pointing to Hamas' Use of Civilian Shields


On April 27, 2015, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon transmitted to the UN Security Council a summary of a report issued by a Board of Inquiry that he had commissioned regarding occurrences at UNRWA facilities during the 2014 Gaza War. The full report has not been released.

In his covering letter, the UN Secretary General said the following about Hamas use of Palestinians as human shields:

    "On the discovery by the United Nations of weaponry on United Nations premises, I am dismayed that Palestinian militant groups would put United Nations schools at risk by using them to hide their arms. The three schools at which weaponry was found were empty at the time and were not being used as shelters. However, the fact that they were used by those involved in the fighting to store their weaponry and, in two cases, probably to fire from is unacceptable."

Editor's Note: Although Ban Ki-moon claims that the schools were empty at the time, the report itself finds otherwise. For instance in the case of the UNRWA Jabalia Elementary "C" and Ayyobiya Boys School on 22 July 2014, the report states that it was displaced persons themselves who told UN staff about the weaponry in a UN school: "the [UNRWA] official was immediately alerted by the displaced persons to the presence of an object, seemingly a weapon..."

The Board of Inquiry spells out a series of occasions in which it finds that Hamas used Palestinians as human shields, deliberately compromising UN facilities and putting civilians in and around these facilities at risk - war crimes:

    "The Board noted that witnesses interviewed by UNRWA had stated that there was no militant activity in the school or in its close vicinity, though one stated that she had heard rockets not far from the school in the days before the incident.
    ...
    On 28 July, an IDF detachment had entered the school to search the buildings for enemy presence and had found a Palestinian Islamic Jihad operational map and other military equipment.
    ...
    Incident (h): Presence of weaponry at the UNRWA Gaza Beach Elementary Coeducational "B" School on 16 July 2014...On 16 July 2015, a 120 MM mortar tube, a mortar bipod and twenty 120 MM mortar-round containers, with ammunition, were discovered under a blanket in the corner of a locked classroom. The weaponry was photographed... The Board ... found that an unidentified Palestinian armed group had used the school premises to hide the weaponry."

    Incident (i): Presence of weaponry at the UNRWA Jabalia Elementary "C" and Ayyobiya Boys School on 22 July 2014... The Jabalia Elementary "C" and Ayyobiya Boys School is one in a row of five schools situated in an urban area to the east of the Jabalia refugee camp. Behind the school is a large open area with small-scale agricultural land. The Board was informed that this area was known for its use as a firing site for armed groups... The area behind the school wall was known at the time for being used by militants, including for the firing of projectiles... UNRWA management was alerted to the arrival of the displaced persons and sent an official to the school to ascertain whether it could be opened as a designated emergency shelter. Upon arrival, the official was immediately alerted by the displaced persons to the presence of an object, seemingly a weapon. Other UNRWA officials then came to the school to inspect the premises. They saw an object, seemingly a weapon, covered with a piece of cloth, in an area under the cover of some trees behind the toilet block and near the boundary wall separating the school from the open area behind it. No one approached the object to confirm whether it was a weapon. No photographs of it were taken; and, for this reason, the Board was unable to confirm with certainty what type of weapon may have been hidden at the school. However, it concluded that it was highly likely that a Palestinian armed group might have used the premises to hide weapons... The Government of Israel showed the Board a video, which the Board concluded was authentic, showing the launching of a projectile from within the school premises on 14 July. The Government also provided a document which was said to identify the places close to the school from which rockets had been launched, together with the dates of those launches. The Board concluded that it was highly likely that an unidentified Palestinian armed group could have used the school premises to launch attacks on or around 14 July.

    Incident (j): Presence of weaponry at the UNRWA Nuseirat Preparatory Coeducational "B" School on 29 July 2014 and on 17 August 2014...On 29 July, a 120 MM mortar tube, a 120 MM mortar bipod and three 120 MM mortar containers were found, covered by a blanket, behind a locked internal gate leading to a stairwell. The weapons were photographed...The Board was informed that, between 30 July and 17 August, security at the school may have been compromised at least on one occasion by the presence of unidentified individuals and, possibly, of mortar weaponry. On 17 August, a 120 MM mortar tube, a 120 MM mortar bipod and twenty 120 MM mortar containers were found in a small room under a stairwell. Water, lubricant-oil bottles and boards apparently used as beds were also found, as well as writing in Arabic on a blackboard, seemingly depicting military operations. At the rear of the school, a mortar base plate was found, embedded in the sand. These items were photographed... The Board also found that the presence of weapons and other evidence found in the school indicated that the premises could have been used for an unknown period of time by members of a Palestinian armed group and that it was likely that such a group may have fired the mortar from within the premises of the school."