Hamas and its Palestinian and Western propagandists continue to insist that the Islamist movement does not use civilians in the Gaza Strip as human shields during war. But the truth is that Hamas itself has admitted that it does use innocent civilians as human shields, to increase the number of casualties and defame Israel in the eyes of the international community.
This admission, however, has, of course, gone unnoticed by most Western journalists and analysts reporting on the war in the Gaza Strip. Many Western journalists in the Gaza Strip choose to ignore the fact that Hamas is forcing civilians to serve as human shields. They also seem to ignore the fact that senior Hamas officials and militiamen have found shelter among civilians and in hospitals, especially Gaza City's Shifa Hospital. Is it really a coincidence that Hamas spokesmen gave interviews to the Arab and Western media from the premises of Shifa Hospital? Why hasn't anyone even noted it as odd?
Of course, the Hamas spokesmen, to attract the attention of the media, pretend that they are visiting the wounded in the hospital, but in reality, these Hamas spokesmen have been staying inside the hospital, bearing in mind -- even certain -- that Israel would not target such a sensitive site.
What is disturbing is that foreign journalists did not bother (or dare) to ask any of the Hamas leaders and self-proclaimed spokesmen whether they were hiding inside the hospital, regardless of what the answer would doubtless be. They apparently did not even ask themselves this question. .
One foreign journalist explained that asking such a question would have "endangered my life." Another admitted over coffee that he and his colleagues were too scared to report news that would anger Hamas and other radical groups.
"We know that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields," the reporter, who asked not to be identified, said. "But why would you report this when you are sitting in the middle of the Gaza Strip, surrounded by Hamas gunmen?"
On July 22, Hamas and Palestinian "resistance" groups issued a warning to residents of the Gaza Strip to remain indoors after 11pm. The warning, which was also ignored by most journalists, was published on several Hamas-affiliated web sites
So here is Hamas, literally imposing a curfew on the residents of the Gaza Strip, in the hope that they will be killed or wounded by Israel. But this, as far as the international media is concerned, is a story that is obviously not worth reporting,
More evidence of Hamas's use of civilians as human shields surfaced on July 10. The Hamas-run Ministry of Interior published a statement on its Arabic web site asking residents not to heed Israeli calls to leave their homes so they would not be harmed by the IDF.
This warning, of course, did not appear on the ministry's English language website. It seems, unsurprisingly, that Hamas does not want the world to know its leaders, from luxury hotel suites in Qatar and elsewhere, are using civilians as human shields.
Although almost all the foreign journalists covering the conflict in the Gaza Strip have Arabic-speaking "fixers," none of these "fixers" deemed it necessary to alert their foreign colleagues to the Hamas warning. Some Western reporters who later learned about the warning preferred to look the other way. After all, who wants to get into trouble with Hamas, particularly when its leaders and fighters are extremely nervous and busy moving from one hiding place to another?
Besides the human shields story, there is another item that the international media also choose to ignore: the extrajudicial execution of Palestinian "collaborators" during the past two weeks.
Palestinian sources have confirmed that Hamas has executed at least 13 Palestinians on suspicion of "collaboration" with Israel. None of the suspects was brought to trial, and the executions were reportedly carried out in the most brutal manner, with torture that included severe beating and breaking arms and legs.
According to the sources, Hamas has also been shooting suspected "collaborators" in the legs to prevent them from moving around. Many others, including Fatah activists, have been placed under house arrest by Hamas.
This is not a story that Hamas wants the international media to report about. Not even one of the foreign journalists in the Gaza Strip mentioned the brutal killings in their dispatches. Maybe they feared they would lose "access" and be reassigned to Nowhereville.
Hamas has also been successful in stopping the international media from reporting on Hamas casualties. The only victims the journalists are allowed to report about from the Gaza Strip are the civilians. Have you seen any photos or reports in the international media about any Hamas gunmen? Of course not, no one has. The official story is that they do not exist.
Foreign journalists working in the Gaza Strip have complied with Hamas's demands and continue to avoid stories or photos that expose the Islamist movement's cynical exploitation of innocent civilians during the war. The media has once again taken sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this one, it is the media that is helping Hamas get away with war crimes.
Bassam Tawil is a journalist based in the Middle East.