War against Hamas: FAQs

Allegations of Israeli war crimes have flown thick and fast since 7 October. Lies, mistruths, obfuscations and basic ignorance about the situation in Gaza, Israel’s rights and obligations during warfare and the nature of Hamas has confused the conversation. Below, we’ve answered some of the questions and challenged some of the myths. Use these in your conversations with friends and colleagues.

Shifa Hospital

Can Israeli troops enter Shifa Hospital?
The laws of armed conflict are clear; Hamas has removed the hospital’s immunity from attack by using it for military purposes. Israeli soldiers entering al-Shifa Hospital are doing so doing so completely legally. The world has known for 16 years about Hamas’s use of the hospital. Any expressions of outrage should be directed only at Hamas and all those people who knew and remained silent. Especially the Red Cross, who should have been screaming from the rooftops about this.

Want to see the many years of evidence?
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Humanitarian crisis in Gaza

Who is responsible for the living conditions in Gaza?
As the de facto power of Gaza since 2007 (when it violently seized control from the Palestinian Authority) Hamas is responsible for providing aid to its citizens. Israel completely left Gaza in 2005 and is not responsible for providing aid to Gaza.
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Reporting on the war

Are the stories of the Hamas massacre lies fabricated by Israel?
The stories of the Hamas massacre are proven by the videos recorded by Hamas terrorists and autopsies of the brutalised victims (WARNING: DISTRESSING CONTENT). These atrocities happened. Videos from Hamas terrorists prove it.

Can I believe the stats coming out of Gaza?
The numbers of casualties mentioned on media are accredited to the ‘Gaza Health Ministry’, which is Hamas. There is no way to verify the claims made by them and in the past, they have been proven to have lied. For instance, they claimed that 500 people were killed in the al-Ahli hospital explosion (and that it was Israel’s fault), whereas independent reviews have shown that perhaps 20 people were killed (and that it was Islamic Jihad’s fault).

Are the Palestinian news media and journalists reliable sources?
No. Palestinian society does not have a free press like Australia and Israel. Hamas terrorists intimidate journalists reporting from Gaza, influencing what the world is able to see. Many Palestinians also work as reporters or sources for international journalists. These Palestinians often have biases, including social media accounts celebrating terrorism against Israelis. By way of background, Associated Press in Gaza has been compromised for some time (see here and here for examples).

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War crimes and the laws of armed conflict

Does Israel have the right to enter Gaza?
Yes. This war was started by Hamas and its brutal massacre of Israeli civilians. Hamas’ clear intention is the eradication of the state of Israel and death to Jews everywhere.

Israel has a responsibility to protect its citizens and ensure the future security of Israel – and destroying the military capacity of Hamas is the only way to achieve that.

Israel remains compliant with international law in its military campaign against Hamas. Its defensive actions, including a likely ground incursion, are legitimate and are supported by the governments of Australia, the US, UK, the EU, India, France, Germany and many others.

What is Israel’s obligation to Gaza’s civilians?
Under the laws of armed conflict, civilians must never be targeted. Israel has repeatedly stated that its fight is with Hamas and it is not intentionally targeting innocent civilians in Gaza. Israel issues warnings prior to strikes that target terrorist weapons stores, tunnels and infrastructure. It warned the population to evacuate regions in northern Gaza for their safety.

Hamas is breaching its  obligations to Gazan civilians by instructing them not to evacuate and by using them as human shields.

Why is the Palestinian death toll so much higher than the Israeli one?
People talk about ‘disproportionate force’. ‘Disproportionate force’ is not one where more civilians are killed on one side than the other. Nor is it the number of individual attacks one side carries out. .

Hamas uses its own people as human shields – locating themselves or their military capabilities in civilian areas. This is a war crime and renders those areas valid military targets. Hamas has repeated this war crime thousands of times over, and it is the main reason that civilians in Gaza are killed.
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Is Israel using “disproportionate force”?
No. Israel does not use disproportionate force.

Disproportionate force is not a measure of how many civilians are killed on each side. It’s not about the number of individual attacks each side carries out.

Proportionality means that the expected loss of civilian life in an attack against a valid military target should be proportionate to the expected military advantage gained through the attack.

Is Israel committing genocide?
No. The Palestinian population is one of the fastest growing populations in the world. The idea that Israel has been committing ethnic cleansing or genocide is preposterous.

The claim is just as preposterous in the context of the current war between Hamas and Israel. Genocide “refers to the coordinated and planned destruction of a group of people… While genocide is almost always accompanied by mass killing, this crime is an attempt to destroy the group, not necessarily to murder every member of that group.” (Reference here). This certainly doesn’t represent in any way the situation in Gaza.

Israel’s clear and repeatedly stated objective in this war is to remove Hamas from power and retrieve the hostages Hamas took on 7 October. The inadvertent killing of civilians is legally and morally the fault of Hamas, which purposefully endangers its own civilians for tactical and propagandistic purposes.

Have other war crimes been committed?
Yes, Hamas committed many war crimes against Israel in its initial attack – mass murder and executions, torture, rape and kidnap among them.
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Is Israel collectively punishing the Palestinians in Gaza?
No. Collective punishment is a war crime. Collective punishment is when a group of people are punished for a crime that only part of the group committed.

Israel has made it clear from day one that it is engaged in a war of self-defence against Hamas with a clear military objective of removing Hamas from power, and that the blockade and missile strikes are aspects of this operation. The impact on innocent civilians is a horrible aspect of modern warfare, which is why Israel has gone to great lengths to lessen this impact as much as possible.

But isn’t the blockade collective punishment?
No. There is clear evidence that Hamas used international humanitarian assistance for military purposes. Article 23 of the Fourth Geneva Convention makes clear that Israel is obliged to allow the free passage of humanitarian supplies “subject to the condition that [it] is satisfied that there are no serious reasons for fearing” the goods will accrue “a definite military advantage…to military efforts” of the enemy.

Israel is not preventing humanitarian supplies from entering Gaza. However, it is not supplying them itself. Egypt shares an international border with Gaza, and humanitarian supplies are entering. It has taken some time to ensure that Israel and neutral third parties are satisfied (in line with the Fourth Geneva Convention) that the supplies will not accrue a definite military advantage to Hamas.

Further, previous to Hamas beginning this war on 7 October, Israel was under no obligation to provide electricity and water to Gaza, but did so as part of a suite of policies designed to convince Hamas not to attack Israel. That tactic failed.

Is Israel besieging Gaza?
No. Gaza is not under siege. A siege requires the besieged party to be encircled. Israel does not encircle Gaza – Gaza shares a border with Egypt and Israel has no control over what goes in or out of that border. Humanitarian aid will be entering Gaza from Egypt.

Israel’s blockade is completely within its rights under international law.

What about water, electricity and fuel? It’s a humanitarian crisis!
For years Israel has provided with water and electricity and allowed goods to enter Gaza and Gazans to enter Israel for work or medical reasons despite being under no obligation to do so.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire, and entirely Hamas’s fault. Israel has now closed its borders with Gaza. Hamas has received billions in international humanitarian aid. Rather than spend it on improving conditions for Gazans they have used it to build terrorist tunnels and buy weaponry.

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What is Hamas?
Hamas is a proscribed terrorist organisation whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the annihilation of Jewish people.

Hamas has long boasted about its desire to kill Israelis, young and old – on 7 October, it did just that.

Do most Palestinians support Hamas and the massacre?
Some Palestinians do support Hamas, but not all.

A September 2023 poll by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research found that 38 per cent of Gazans supported Hamas. The second most popular party was Fatah, at 25 per cent. Among all Palestinians (West Bank and Gaza combined), 22 per cent supported Hamas.
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Isn’t this just Hamas resistance to the occupation?
It’s not about the occupation, the Israeli occupation of Gaza ended 18 years ago.

Since then, the number of Hamas rocket attacks against Israel dramatically increased. This shows that ending the occupation has only increased Hamas’ ability to reach Israelis.

This isn’t even about borders. Hamas just wants to destroy Israel and there is no justification for the atrocities perpetrated by Hamas.

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Australian leaders

How have Australian leaders responded?
All Australian political leaders (apart from the Greens) have condemned Hamas’ atrocious terror attacks and are standing with Israel’s right and duty to defend itself by destroying Hamas’ military capabilities.

The solidarity shown by political leaders – in Parliament, at rallies and in genuine engagement with the community has comforted the Australian Jewish community at a time of trauma.

We also welcome the wall-to-wall condemnation of incitement and threats of violence against the Australian Jewish community.

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Al-Ahli hospital

What happened at al-Ahli hospital?
The terrible explosion that killed so many people at the al-Ahli Hospital was a tragedy.

Hospitals are places of healing, it is devastating that innocent civilians were killed and injured.

There is clear evidence that the explosion was caused by an errant Islamic Jihad rocket intended to hit Israel. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are responsible for the tragic deaths.
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Apartheid? Colonialism?

Is Israel an apartheid state?
No. About a quarter of Israeli citizens are not Jewish, but they have the same rights as Israeli Jews. They can vote and be voted for, access all public institutions and services, and so on. Israel outlaws discrimination on the basis of race (as well as gender, religion, sexuality, marital status and so on).
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Is Israel a coloniser? (Or, is Israel a colonialist country?)
No. Jews are indigenous to the Land of Israel and the State of Israel is the fulfilment of Jewish self-determination in the land of their ancestors.
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What’s the difference between Israel and the West Bank?
On the back of UN General Assembly Resolution 181, Israel declared independence on 14 May 1948. Immediately, five Arab states invaded in an attempt to destroy Israel. Israel survived, and signed a series of armistice agreements in 1949. The armistice agreement between Israel and Jordan demarcated the shape of what became known as the West Bank.
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Israel and the UN

Why does the UN pass so many resolutions that condemn Israel?
That’s a good question. The short answer is that there is only one Jewish state (Israel), but 22 Arab countries and a further 35 Muslim-majority countries that (almost) always vote against Israel. Most of the Non-Aligned Movement countries (120 countries) also automatically vote against Israel, due both to their reliance on Arab oil (and so they are pressured to vote as expected) and because of Israel’s public embrace of and by the United States. The UN became openly hostile to Israel from 1974, in the wake of the oil boycott imposed by Saudi Arabia and other Arab oil-producing countries the previous year.

The voting habits of Western states in the UN are more nuanced, but still usually against Israel. This is down to diplomatic persuasion and Western sympathies for the Palestinians (and misplaced blame on Israel for their plight).

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