See No Evil: NGOs Turn Terrorists into Civilians in 2021 Gaza Conflict

A major element of NGO propaganda consists of accusing Israel of targeting and killing civilians in Gaza. NGO Monitor has examined the use of this subterfuge during the May 2021 Gaza conflict, as well as in previous confrontations.

One method used by NGOs to inflate civilian casualty numbers, accompanied by allegations of “war crimes,” is to obscure or omit essential details about specific incidents – thereby erasing the role of terrorist groups. NGOs falsely classify Palestinian terrorists as civilians and ignore evidence that implicates terror groups in the deaths of Gazan civilians.

NGO Monitor research has identified 50 incidents in which Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives killed in Gaza were falsely labeled by NGOs as civilian casualties, or in which civilians killed by Hamas were implicitly attributed to Israel. (Approximately 15 percent of the 4,300 missiles fired towards Israel fell short and impacted in Gaza.)

In failing to report accurately, Palestinian NGOs amplify the demonization strategy, ignore the commission of war crimes by Palestinians, and distort the reality of Israeli efforts to limit civilian casualties during the fighting. These manipulated NGO accounts also serve as the basis of inflammatory media projects, such as the infamous New York Times front page story with pictures of children, and for international “investigations”, such as a forthcoming UN Human Rights Council commission of inquiry.

To choose an incident, click on a circle next to a particular date and time.

Erasure of Terror Links

  1. NGO report: According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), an Israeli drone strike killed Saber Ibrahim Mahmoud Suliman and his son Mohammed at 18:10 on May 10, 2021, in Jabalia. The NGO reported that the two were killed “as they were in the [agricultural] land.”

Similarly, Al Mezan reported that two “residents of Jabalia” were killed in an Israeli air raid on farmland east of Jabalia. Additionally, Al Haq claims that the two were killed “as they worked their agricultural fields in the Jabal Al-Kashef area, east of Izbt Abd Rabbo.”

Omission of Hamas ties: According to Hamas, Suliman was a field commander in the Izz Ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades. Photographs have been published of Mohammed (15) dressed in military clothing carrying automatic weapons.  A video of Suliman instructing his son in the use of automatic weapons is revealing, and indicates that the son was a victim of the crime of child recruitment.

Pictured: Muhammed Suliman dressed in military fatigues. Source

Notably, the reported Israeli strike occurred at the very beginning of hostilities, just 10 minutes after Hamas launched a rocket barrage toward Jerusalem. This timing – when Israel was responding narrowly to the initial attack and had yet to widely strike targets throughout Gaza – combined with the location of the incident in an isolated area reflects a precision strike on individuals engaged in military activity.

  1. NGO report: According to Al Mezan, at 6:05 on May 12, 2021, Israeli planes struck Khan Younis, killing Mahmoud Jamil Kallousa (28). Al Mezan refers to Kallousa as “a passerby” who was killed. In its Arabic language report, the NGO labels Kallousa as a civilian.

PCHR reported that the area where Kalloua was killed contained a military site belonging to “Palestinian armed groups,” adjacent to a municipal park.  Its Arabic language report also refers to Kallousa as a civilian.

Omission of Hamas ties: According to Hamas, Kallousa was a combatant in the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades. Neither NGO explained why a military installation was located next to a municipal park, or why Kallousa, a confirmed Hamas member, happened to be “passing by” at that precise moment.

  1. NGO report: According to Al Haq, at 23:50 on May 14, 2021, near Abdelrazeq Glebo Mosque in Beit Lahia, Israeli missile strikes killed Ahmed Hatem Al-Mansi (34), his brother Yousuf Hatem Al-Mansi, (22), and neighbor Ahmed Mohammed Sabbah (28).

Al Haq reported that the Al-Mansi house was targeted “as residents tried to leave the house.” Al Mezan reported that the three were killed when a missile was “fired at a front yard next to a mosque.” According to PCHR, “3 civilians, including 2 brothers, were killed.” (emphasis added).

Omission of Hamas ties: According to Hamas, Ahmed Mansi and Ahmed Mohammed Sabah were both combatants in the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, while the Hamas Ministry of the Interior referred to Yousuf Mansi as a “soldier.”

Notably, Al-Mezan’s claim that munitions were “fired at a front yard next to a mosque,” further suggests that Hamas members were exploiting civilian objects to shield their military activity.

Left: A freeze frame from one of Ahmed al-Mansi’s YouTube videos (Source); Right: Mansi’s official Hamas portrait (Source)

Palestinian Casualties Caused by Palestinian Rockets

In addition, NGO Monitor checked incidents involving Palestinian casualties that were caused by Palestinian rockets. There is no correlation between the incidents listed below and in Table 1 and the ones mentioned above in the database.

  1. NGO report: According to DCI-P, at 18:10 on May 10, 2021, a “blast” killed eight civilians, most of them from the al-Masri family, in the al-Thahrah area, east of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. The organization acknowledged that it had not confirmed the cause of the deaths, referring only to a “blast” that caused the incident.

PCHR and Al Haq both reported that “a missile” killed the civilians, while Al Mezan originally reported that the incident was an airstrike, later revising to say instead that the casualties were the result of a “shell” hitting the house.

Omission of Hamas role: The significant discrepancies in NGO reporting regarding the incident, combined with Al-Mezan’s correction and DCI-P’s cautious language, strongly suggest that these casualties were the result of Palestinian weapons that fell short and landed in Gaza.

In many other reports, these NGOs consistently and regularly attributed attacks to the IDF.  The lack of such attribution in this instance is conspicuous.

  1. NGO report: According to DCI-P, at 21:15 on May 14, 2021, a six year-old girl was killed by shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade on Nuzha Street in Jabalia.

PCHR and Al Haq both reported that Buthaina Mahmoud ‘Issa ‘Obaid (6) was killed after being hit with shrapnel in the right side of her head when she was in front of her house. DCI-P acknowledged that it was not yet able to confirm the source of the rocket-propelled grenade.

Omission of Hamas role: None of the NGOs reported the origin of the alleged rocket-propelled grenade. Moreover, RPGs are typically used for low to mid-range targets by infantry, there was no known Israeli ground incursion into Gaza, and these weapons are not a regular part of the IDF arsenal.

These factors suggest that this incident is the result of Palestinian munitions: Either one of the RPGs fired by Palestinians towards Israel misfired, or an Israeli strike on a weapons cache led to secondary explosions.

  1. NGO report: According to Al Mezan, at 16:20 on May 12, 2021, Hammad Ayyad Mansour Al-Dabari (86) was killed by shrapnel from a missile, near Al-Sabreen Mosque, Rafah.  The NGO reported that Al-Dabari was killed by “the shrapnel of a missile that hit his home…”

Al Haq and PCHR both reported that the circumstances of the incident were still under investigation, but “coincided with the firing and interception of homemade Palestinian rockets from the Israeli Iron Dome system, and the firing of Israeli artillery shells.”

Omission of Hamas role: Al-Haq’s and PCHR’s explanations are inconsistent with Iron Dome’s capabilities and deployment in intercepting rockets, which could not conceivably have intercepted a rocket over Rafah.

Furthermore, as noted above, Al-Mezan’s statement demonstrates that while Israeli attacks are clearly labeled as “Israeli” in its reports, the attacker is not mentioned when Palestinian rockets cause fatalities – a recurring theme throughout NGO reporting on the conflict.

Table 1: Palestinian Casualties Likely Caused by Palestinian Weapons

Incident DetailsPCHRDCI-PAl-HaqAl-MezanContradictory or Omitted EvidencePictures
10 May, 18:05, Saleh Dardonah Street (North Gaza).
Seven killed by a fallen missile.
PCHR: ..".A missile fell...7 were killed, including a child...PCHR’s staff is still investigating the circumstances of this incident." [in its Arabic report, PCHR calls all 7 casualties civilians.]DCIP: ..."Initial investigations suggest a homemade rocket fired by a Palestinian armed group fell short and killed eight Palestinians, including two children...Mustafa Mohammad Mahmoud Obaid, 16, was killed in the blast, and five-year-old Baraa Wisam Ahmad al-Gharabli succumbed to his injuries around 11 p.m. on May 10. Palestinian security sources and explosives experts indicated the cause of this explosion was a Palestinian armed group rocket that fell short. Another 34 Palestinian civilians were injured in the blast, including 10 children, according to DCIP’s documentation." [DCI-P does not mention Issmat al-Zain.]According to Hamas, Issmat Shaaban Al-Zain is a combatant in Izz Ad-din Al-Qassam brigades.

In any case, no evidence suggests that this was an IDF operation.
10 May, 18:10, al-Basha Farm in al-Thahrah area, east of Beit Hanoun (North Gaza). Eight killed by a blast, the cause of which has yet to be determined.PCHR: "A missile fell on gathering of civilians...8 killed and 18 injured."
DCIP: "Six Palestinian children and two adults were killed in a third blast that occurred around 6 p.m. in Beit Hanoun about 800 meters (2,600 feet) west of the Gaza Strip perimeter fence. DCIP has not yet confirmed the cause of these deaths."Al-Haq: "A missile targeted a gathering of civilians, most of them from the Al-Masry family. The missile killed eight civilians, including six children, with five of the deceased from one family."Al Mezan: In its original report Al-Mezan claimed: "an airstrike hit the house of Attallah Almasri...killing eight Palestinians, including six children, and injuring 18 more. As of June 6, Al-Mezan argues that: "...a shell hit the house of Attallah Almasri..." Meanwhile, in its Arabic report, Al-Mezan claimed all along that a "rocket shell fell..."Significant discrepancies in NGO reporting regarding the incident strongly raise the likelihood that these casualties were the result of Palestinian munitions that landed in Gaza.
10 May, 21:30, al-Rahman Mosque in Zaytun neighborhood in Beit Hanoun. An Israeli missile strike killed one.PCHR: "Ibrahim Ahmed Khamis al-Shenbari (20)...was killed and 13 others, including 4 women and 2 children, were wounded." [in its Arabic report PCHR referred to Shenbari as a civilian and failed to mentioned that the missile was of Israeli origin].According to Hamas, Ibrahim Ahmed Al-Shenbari was a combatant in Izz Ad-din Al-Qassam Brigades.
12 May, ~16:20, next to Al-Sabreen Mosque (Rafah). A man was fatally wounded by shrapnel injuries to the head. Circumstances of the incident are still being investigated. PCHR: "...the dead body of Hammad ‘Ayyad Mansour al-Debari (86)...arrived at Abu Yousif al-Najjar Hospital after he sustained shrapnel wounds in the head...PCHR’s staff is still investigating the circumstances of the incident, which coincided with the Israeli Iron Dome’s interception of the Palestinian rockets fired from the Gaza Strip along with Israeli artillery shelling."Al-Haq: "Hammad Ayyad Mansour al-Dabbari, 86...fatally wounded by shrapnel lodged in his head...The circumstances of the incident are still being investigated, but coincided with the firing and interception of homemade Palestinian rockets from the Israeli Iron Dome system, and the firing of Israeli artillery shells."Al-Mezan: "...the death of Hammad Ayyad Mansour Al-Dabari, 86, as a result of an injury to his head caused by the shrapnel of a missile that hit near his home in the Zalata neighborhood in Al-Shoka, eastern Rafah. [In its Arabic report, Al-Mezan mentions in open lands near Daabari's house]."
Al-Haq and PCHR's explanation seems to contradict Iron Dome's known capabilities in intercepting rockets. Furthermore, Al-Mezan's report demonstrate the fact that while Israeli attacks are clearly defined as Israeli, when Hamas rockets cause fatalities, the identity of the attacker is not mentioned.
14 May, ~21:15, Nuzha Street in Jabalia (North Gaza). A girl was killed from shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade.PCHR: "At approximately 21:30, shrapnel of a missile fell on a house belonging to the sons of ‘Issa ‘Obaid on al-Nozhah Street in Jabalia. As a result, a girl with disability namely Buthaina Mahmoud ‘Issa ‘Obaid (6) was killed after being hit with shrapnel in the right side of her head when she was in front of her house."DCI-P: "Shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade killed six-year-old Buthaina Mahmoud Issa Obaid.
DCIP has not yet been able to confirm the source of the rocket-propelled grenade and continues to investigate this incident."
Al-Haq: "The shrapnel of a missile fell...on the house of the sons of Issa Obaid...Buthaina Mahmoud Issa Obaid, 6, a chid with disabilities and suffering from brain atrophy, died when shrapnel hit her in the right side of the head, while she was in front of her house."The IDF did not use RPGs in the current conflict in Gaza. This is another example of Palestinian NGOs covering up the casualties of Palestinian armed groups' violence