On May 10, 2021, Israel responded to barrages of rockets and mortars launched by Palestinian terror groups in Gaza towards civilian population centers in Israel. As of May 13, over 1,000 rockets were fired — each a blatant war crime.

As in previous rounds of violence involving Gaza, NGO Monitor has tracked NGO statements and claims regarding such strikes. Once again, NGOs and their officials have focused almost exclusively on demonizing Israel for responding to the attacks and alleging “indiscriminate” and “disproportionate” violations, while at the same time ignoring Palestinian war crimes.

As seen below, NGO Monitor has identified numerous inaccuracies and discrepancies in NGO accounts, including:

  • Denying Israel’s right to self-defense
  • Inverting international law
  • Failing to acknowledge the terror links of casualties in Gaza
  • Reporting differently in different languages
  • Blaming Israel for victims of Palestinian rockets that fall within Gaza
  • Ignoring the illegal embedding of Hamas infrastructure and weapons stockpiles in civilian areas, turning the population into human shields

B’Tselem — denying Israel’s right to self-defense

In a May 12 Facebook post, B’Tselem (funded by Denmark, European Union, Norway, Spain, and Switzerland) claimed that “Bombing residential towers – that do not constitute a military target and make dozens of families homeless – is a war crime,” adding, “The architects and leaders of the Israeli apartheid regime, who do not consider Palestinians as equal human beings deserving full human rights, should be prosecuted for this war crime.”

Regarding legal claims, B’Tselem seeks to replace the laws of armed conflict with an invented version. If Hamas shields its bases of operation, command and control centers, and weapons production facilities and storage houses within civilian structures, these areas become legitimate military targets.

The malevolence of the second part of B’Tselem’s sentence reflects  the organization’s  agenda, exposing the cynical purpose of  its legal and factual pronouncements.

Inverting international law

In a May 12 statement, Amnesty International Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Salah Hijazi asserted that Israel’s supposed “Deliberate targeting of civilian objects and extensive, unjustified destruction of property are war crimes. Destroying entire multi-storey homes making tens of families homeless amounts to collective punishment of the Palestinian population and is a breach of international law” (emphasis added).

In sharp contrast, regarding rockets deliberately launched at Israeli civilians, Hijazi’s language was clearly equivocal, stating only that “Firing rockets which cannot be accurately aimed into populated areas can amount to a war crime and endangers civilian lives on both sides of the Israel/ Gaza border” (emphases added).

Amnesty’s statement is a tendentious  inversion of international law and egregious distortion of facts. The deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other Palestinian terrorist groups is a clear and unequivical war crime. Numerous statements by these groups, threatening rocket barrages against specific Israeli cities and claiming responsibility for attacking these cities after the fact, confirm this. Moreover, contrary to Amnesty’s repetition of Palestinian propaganda, Israeli analysts have noted an increase in the accuracy of some Hamas and Islamic Jihad rockets.

Conversely, determining the legality and morality of Israeli strikes requires extensive knowledge of the military use of the specific target (i.e., did it house rockets, weapons, command and control, fighters, weapons productions facilities, etc.), the perceived military benefit of attacking the site and access to the information about the target that was known to Israeli commanders when approving the attack. Amnesty (and all the other NGOs) do not have access to this essential information and can, therefore, merely speculate.

PCHR and Al Mezan – Erasing  the terror links of Palestinian combatant casualties

An essential factor in evaluating the legality and morality of a counterterror response is whether the target is military or civilian in nature. In order to artificially criminalize and demonize Israeli strikes, NGOs erase the terror links of the targets and the casualties, creating a false narrative of innocent civilian victims. For instance:

  • The PFLP terror-linked NGOs Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) (funded by the European Union, Ireland, Spain, and Switzerland) and Al Mezan (funded by the European Union, and the Netherlands) reported that on May 10, 2021 an Israeli airstrike killed Saber Ibrahim Mahmoud Suleiman and his 15-year-old son in farmland in northern Gaza. Neither organization acknowledged that Suleiman was a commander in the armed wing of Hamas (a detail that was admitted to by DCI-P). Social media posts show the son dressed in military fatigues and carrying a weapon – indicating that he was a victim of the crime of child recruitment.
  • PCHR and Al Mezan reported that on May 11, 2021, Israel targeted a residential apartment located in Gaza City, killing three. They did not state, as noted by the IDF, that the building housed Islamic Jihad commander Samah Abed al-Mamluk and other senior members of his unit.
  • PCHR reported that on May 12, 2021, Israel targeted the home of Sa’dallah Sai’ed Mohammed Dahman, destroying the home. No casualties were reported. They did not state, as noted by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, that Dahman is a senior Hamas official and that the house was used as a weapons depot.

Reporting differently in different languages

Palestinian NGOs have presented different versions of events depending on the target audience. For example, Al Mezan’s website in English states that on May 10 at 18:10 “an airstrike” hit a house east of Beit Hanoun City, killing 8, including six children, and injuring 18 – suggesting to international audiences that Israel is responsible. However, the same article in Arabic identifies the incident as stemming from a “rocket shell,” which implies that a Palestinian rocket fell short of its intended target (Israeli civilians).

Indeed, PCHR describes the incident as the falling of a “missile,” while DCI-P uses the term “blast,” noting that its cause had not yet been confirmed.

Blaming Israel for victims of Palestinian rockets that fall within Gaza

On May 11, the Danish NGO DanChurchAid released a statement stating that five children of one of their employees had been killed “when the Israeli military bombed northern Gaza.” Based on the location, time, and casualty count of the incident, the statement appears to be referring to the aforementioned “blast” in Beit Hanoun, the cause of which has yet to be confirmed but which appears to be Palestinian in origin.

Ignoring presence of Hamas infrastructure and weapons stockpiles

NGOs and their officials have consistently ignored in their statements the presence of Hamas militants and stockpiles in buildings targeted by Israel. For instance:

  • On May 11, the al-Hanadi Tower was targeted by an Israeli airstrike. Al Mezan reported that the tower was a “residential tower” which was “home to 80 families and several companies,” while PCHR noted that the tower included “a lot of residential apartments, institutions, and offices; some of them were governmental.” Neither group acknowledged that the tower housed the offices of top Hamas leadership.
  • On May 12, Al Mezan reported that Israel targeted the al-Jawhara Tower in Gaza City, which contained “several companies, clinics, and media institutions.” Similarly, PCHR reported that the tower contained “residential apartments, offices, and organizations, including media offices.” Both organizations failed to note that the tower also housed the offices of Hamas’ cyberwarfare unit and its media outlet.
  •  On May 12, B’Tselem tweeted a video of an Israeli airstrike on Shuruq Tower in Gaza City with the caption, “Bombing residential towers – that do not constitute a military target and make dozens of families homeless – is a war crime.” In sharp contradiction to this claim, the video shows secondary explosions several seconds after the strike, indicating the presence of munitions stockpiles in the building.