JERUSALEM—Foreign correspondents emerging from the Gaza Strip since a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas went into effect two days ago are confirming Israel’s claims that Hamas was firing rockets during the month-long confrontation from residential areas and near UN facilities.
Israel says that its attempts to hit these launch sites is the principal reason for the devastation wrought in the Gaza Strip.
The correspondents said that threats from Hamas operatives prevented them from reporting this in real time while they were in Gaza.
An Indian journalist, Sreenivadsan Jain, reporting for Hindi language news channel NDTV, showed a tape taken from his hotel window of several men setting up a tent in a sheltered area alongside the building and linking a hidden device inside it to electricity sources.
The next morning, 10 minutes before the ceasefire went into effect, "there was a loud explosion and a whooshing sound" as a rocket fired. The Indian TV crew captured the moment on tape, a rarity since the foreign press was warned away from launch sites.
"Just as we reported the devastating consequences of Israel’s offensive on Gaza’s civilians, it is equally important to report on how Hamas places those very civilians at risk by firing rockets deep from the heart of civilian zones," Jain said.
No shelters had been prepared for the civilian population in Gaza and more than 1,800 were killed in Israeli air and artillery strikes at launch sites. The Hamas civilian and military leadership survived the war safely underground.
A correspondent for France 24, Gallagher Fenwick, also showed a rocket launch 50 meters from his hotel and 100 meters from a UN facility. Israel claims that Hamas fired repeatedly from the close vicinity of the scores of schools and other UN facilities in Gaza. In retaliating, Israeli fire at least twice caused fatalities among civilians seeking shelter in the buildings.
Italian journalist Gabriele Barbati confirmed Israel’s contention that an explosion that caused casualties in the Shati refugee camp had not been caused by Israeli fire but from a misfired Hamas rocket.
The Washington Post’s Sudarsan Raghavan said that Hamas dressed up attack scenes to win sympathy. He said he was taken to a mosque that had been bombed and found that someone had "prepared" the scene by laying out a prayer rug and burnt pages from the Quran.
Gaza’s most prominent Christian leader, Archbishop Alexios, told the CBN website that "Islamists used the church compound to launch rockets into Israel."
Israel’s Government Press Office, which interviewed many of the reporters arriving in Israel from Gaza, said that several reported receiving death threats and some were the victims of violence that included destruction of their equipment.