Politics & Policy

The Missing Hamas Fighters

Harassment, intimidation, and threats frequently employed by Hamas on journalists.

Images and video of Hamas fighters and weapons have been scarce over the past several weeks, drawing criticism from Israel supporters for what they consider slanted coverage of the conflict. But that may be changing after an Indian news crew caught Hamas terrorists assembling and launching a rocket Monday.

While images of devastated Palestinian homes and wounded individuals can easily be found on cable news reports and front pages, some are asking why those same photographers and correspondents have not provided images of Hamas fighters who are presumably in the area.

For example, after the Jewish Telegraphic Agency noted that a recent New York Times slideshow did not feature any pictures of Hamas fighters or rocket launchers, the Times responded that it did not have any. The scarcity of images of Hamas actually attacking Israel is the result of a successful campaign of intimidation and death threats toward journalists by the terrorist group.

Israel’s public perception has taken a hit as a result of the lopsided coverage, critics say. Additionally, Israel’s supporters want journalists to show the brutality and inhumanity of Hamas’s military tactics, including launching missiles from civilian areas. Hamas won’t allow that. The tactic is part of the group’s effort to control media access to information.

A handful of journalists currently working in Gaza have revealed that they get harassed and threatened by Hamas when they attempt to report information about the group, including launch sites, meeting locations, and entrances to Hamas’s tunnel system. Hamas fighters have threatened to confiscate camera equipment; and in other cases they have simply tried to kill the journalists.

For example, one Spanish reporter recounted his experience to an Israeli filmmaker. “It’s very simple. We did see Hamas people there launching rockets. They were close to our hotel; but if ever we dared pointing our camera on them they would simply shoot at us and kill us,” he said.

This impacts how, and when, journalists cover the news from Gaza. One Italian reporter tweeted that a Hamas misfire hit a refugee area, not an Israeli rocket; but he sent out the tweet from Israel, saying he would not have been safe had he done it from Gaza.

In another case, the Australian reported that a French-Palestinian journalist was detained as he tried to leave Gaza, by Hamas enforcers who asked for his report to be taken down. Others have shared accounts of being accused of cooperating with the Israelis by either Hamas authorities or their supporters.

A report this week by NDTV, an Indian network, revealed just how secretive Hamas is in its warfare, and how much care journalists must take to avoid getting caught exposing the construction of rocket launchers.

In the video, a reporter films a group of men going in and out of a recently raised tent with cables running out of it just outside a hotel in a dense residential area. He acknowledges that he would not be allowed to do so if the fighters knew he was doing this. At the end of the video, the men have packed up their equipment after launching a rocket, prompting the reporter to leave the scene for fear of Israeli retaliation at the location.

NDTV only aired the video after it had left Gaza, for fear of retribution by Hamas.

The NDTV video has since gone viral as one of the best, and only, documents of Hamas’s tactics; Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed the video at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

— Andrew Johnson is an editorial associate at National Review Online. 

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