When Operation Pillar of Defense began on Nov. 14, Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip knew that the IDF was trying to target them. That might explain why on Nov. 19, four senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives took over an office on the second floor of a civilian media building in Gaza — where major international news networks were located — and used it as a meeting place.
The terrorists thought that hiding in a civilian building and using international journalists as human shields would ensure their safety. Once IDF Intelligence learned of their location, the IDF surgically targeted their hiding place. A direct hit was confirmed.
These are the four Islamic Jihad terrorists who were targeted:
- Baha Abu al-Ata: Commander of Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Gaza City Brigade; involved in planning attacks against Israel, arms manufacturing and long-range rocket launching capabilities
- Tissir Mahmoud Mahmed Jabari: Senior Islamic Jihad operative; responsible for training within the organization and approving terrorist attacks against Israel
- Halil Batini: Senior Islamic Jihad operative; a key figure in planning the group’s long-range rocket launching operations; responsible for internal security
- Ramez Harab: Responsible for propaganda in Islamic Jihad’s Gaza City Brigade; an aide to Tissir Jabari; the former head of the Sheikh Rajuan Division
Islamic Jihad admitted that their operatives were hiding in the media building and confirmed that at least one of them was killed.
As the AP tweeted at the time:
BREAKING: Gaza group Islamic Jihad says Israeli strike on media center killed one of its top militant leaders.
— The Associated Press (@AP) November 19, 2012
Hamas Used Civilian Media Buildings to Run Military Operations
Throughout Operation Pillar of Defense, Palestinian terrorists were using offices in media buildings for military purposes. For example, on the 7th floor of a media building in the Rimal district of Gaza City, Hamas was operating an intelligence and command center. The IDF surgically targeted it.
Nearby, from densely populated civilian areas, Palestinian terrorists were firing rockets into Israel. As CNN’s Anderson Cooper reported from the scene:
4 rockets just fired from near media center in #Gaza City. The same media center bldg hit by three IDF missiles earlier today
— Anderson Cooper (@andersoncooper) November 19, 2012
In another media building used by international journalists, Hamas was using antennas on the roof to communicate with its field operatives. On Nov. 18, the IDF surgically targeted the roof:
Islamic Jihad Terrorist Painted “TV” on Hood of Car
Hiding among journalists isn’t the only way that Palestinian terrorists try to avoid IDF reprisals. Sometimes they go a step farther and disguise themselves as actual journalists. All the terrorists have to do is paint “TV” on their car and the IDF will be accused of targeting innocent journalists. That’s exactly what happened on Nov. 19.
Muhammed Riad al-Shamalah — the commander of Islamic Jihad militants in southern Gaza and the head of Islamic Jihad’s military training programs — was driving through Gaza City in a black Mitsubishi Lancer when the IDF struck the rear of his car. Palestinian television later broadcast images of the vehicle, which had “TV” spray painted on the hood. There was no television or communications equipment inside the car.
Journalism by Day, Terrorism by Night
Al-Shamalah had no connection to anything media-related. But that isn’t the case for all Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives who try to claim the title of “journalist”. Some of them do, in fact, carry cameras, but they are paid by a terrorist organization, and they are serving the goals of a terrorist organization.
For example, Mahmoud Al-Kumi and Hussam Salama were Hamas operatives and cameramen for Hamas’ Al-Aqsa television network, which regularly features programming that encourages and praises attacks on Israeli civilians. The IDF targeted Al-Kumi and Salama on Nov. 20.
Palestinian media reported that the two men were indeed Hamas operatives.
Faced with serious accusations of Al-Aqsa TV’s connections to terrorism, the head of the network, Mohammad Thouraya, denied that Al-Aqsa was the voice of Hamas — a hard fact to deny, since the channel is financed and controlled by Hamas — but he did admit that his employees were “all part of the resistance.”
Being “part of the resistance”, in other words, could mean that those carrying a camera during the day could be carrying rockets at night.
Another example: Mohammed Abu Aisha was an employee of Al-Quds Radio, which some media outlets have labeled an “educational” network. Abu Aisha was also an Islamic Jihad terrorist, and that’s why his car was targeted in an IDF airstrike on Nov. 20. Abu Aisha appears on Islamic Jihad’s official website — in an Islamic Jihad uniform.
Who is a Journalist?
Should a senior Islamic Jihad commander who paints “TV” on his car be considered a journalist?
Should a cameraman for a Hamas-owned and operated television network be considered a journalist?
Should a radio show host who wears the uniform of a terrorist group be considered a journalist?
If “yes” is the answer to these three questions — if the clear line between terrorists and journalists is blurred and there is no standard for the definition of “journalist” — it is likely that Palestinian terrorists will continue using journalism as a cover for terrorism.