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Hamas says ‘faults happened’ in 7 October attacks in first account since start of war on Gaza

Palestinian movement denies deliberately attacking civilians in surprise attack, and says that its conflict is 'not with Jewish people'
Abandoned and torched vehicles at the site of the October 7 attack by Palestinian militants near Kibbutz Reim in the Negev desert in southern Israel on 13 October 2023 (AFP/Jack Guez)
Abandoned and torched vehicles at the site of the 7b October attack by Palestinian militants near Kibbutz Reim in the Negev desert in southern Israel on 13 October 2023 (AFP/Jack Guez)

Hamas has published a 16-page report regarding its 7 October attack on southern Israeli communities, in which it stated that "faults" occurred, but denied deliberately targeting civilians.  

“Our narrative: Operation Al-Aqsa Flood”, published on Sunday, is the Palestinian group's first public account of the operation since the attack three months ago.

The surprise attack killed 1,140 people, almost 700 of whom were civilians, and saw around 240 people taken captive to Gaza, around half of whom have since been released in a prisoner exchange deal.

Since then, relentless Israeli bombardment on the besieged Gaza Strip has killed more than 25,000 Palestinians, the majority of whom are women and children. At least 25 hostages have been killed during Israel's offensive, according to reports.

"We would like to clarify... the reality of what happened on 7 October, the motives behind [it], its general context related to the Palestinian cause, as well as a refutation to the Israeli allegations and to put the facts into perspective," the report opened. 

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The opening section set out the historical and current context of the situation in Palestine, in a section explaining why the group believed the attack needed to happen. 

It singled out the seizure of land and mass displacement of Palestinians during the 1948 Nakba, or "catastrophe", and the 1967 Middle East war that resulted in Israel occupying the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, as well as Syria's Golan Heights and Egypt's Sinai region. 

It went on to list more recent Israeli actions against Palestinians pre-dating 7 October, including five wars against Gaza since the turn of the century and the Second Intifada that it said had killed more than 11,000 Palestinians.

Hamas also stated that Israel scuppered the Oslo Accords and the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state "through a wide campaign of settlements’ construction and Judaisation of the Palestinian lands in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem". 

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"Just one month before Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented a map of a so-called 'New Middle East,' depicting 'Israel' stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea including the West Bank and Gaza," the report said. 

It also cited Israeli incursions into al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, "assaults and humiliations" of Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons, as well as the 17-year blockade of the Gaza Strip.

"What was expected from the Palestinian people after all of that? To keep waiting and to keep counting on the helpless UN!" it said. 

"Or to take the initiative in defending the Palestinian people, lands, rights and sanctities; knowing that the defence act is a right enshrined in international laws, norms and conventions."

'Maybe some faults happened'

Regarding the events of 7 October, the report said that Hamas targeted Israeli military sites and sought to "arrest the enemy's soldiers" in efforts to pressure Israeli authorities to release thousands of Palestinian prisoners.

"Avoiding harm to civilians, especially children, women and elderly people is a religious and moral commitment by all the Al-Qassam Brigades’ fighters," it said, referring to the military wing of Hamas. 

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"We reiterate that the Palestinian resistance was fully disciplined and committed to the Islamic values during the operation and that the Palestinian fighters only targeted the occupation soldiers and those who carried weapons against our people."

The report added that Hamas fighters were keen to avoid civilian harm "despite the fact the resistance does not possess precise weapons". 

Among those killed during the attacks were over 30 children and more than 100 elderly, according to official Israeli statistics, as well as 60 foreign workers.

"If there was any case of targeting civilians, it happened accidentally and in the course of the confrontation with the occupation forces."

"Maybe some faults happened during Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’s implementation due to the rapid collapse of the Israeli security and military system, and the chaos caused along the border areas with Gaza."

Several human rights groups have called on Hamas, which is a proscribed organisation in many western countries including the US and the UK, to be investigated over the events of 7 October.

Amnesty International described "deliberate civilian killings, abductions and indiscriminate attacks" during the operation. 

Amnesty said it had verified videos showing Hamas fighters abducting and intentionally killing civilians in and around Israeli residential communities, and had verified videos showing armed groups shooting at civilians at the Nova music festival. 

Hamas claims Israel killed its own civilians

Hamas went on to refute several Israeli claims about its targeting of civilians, including unverified claims that Palestinian fighters beheaded 40 babies, as well as allegations that Palestinian fighters raped Israeli women. 

It also suggested that Israeli civilians were killed by an Israeli military helicopter on 7 October, citing reports from Israeli media outlets Haaretz and Yedioth Ahronoth.

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"The two reports said the Hamas fighters reached the area of the festival without any prior knowledge of the festival, where the Israeli helicopter opened fire on both the Hamas fighters and the participants in the festival," it said. 

It cited the "Hannibal Directive", an Israeli rule of engagement that reportedly stipulates that Israelis being taken hostage should be avoided at any cost, even if it it results in the deaths of its own people. 

Hamas also cited Israel revising the number of people killed on 7 October from 1,400 down to 1,200, after it had found that 200 burned corpses were of Palestinian fighters. 

"This means that the one who killed the fighters is the one who killed the Israelis, knowing that only the Israeli army possesses military planes that killed, burned and destroyed Israeli areas on 7 October," the group said. 

It added that it was confident that an independent inquiry would "prove the truth of our narrative" and prove the scale of "lies and misleading information on the Israeli side". 

'We reject exploitation of Jewish suffering'

Later in the report, Hamas urged the international community, singling out the US, Germany, Canada and the UK, to back efforts for Israeli actions to be investigated in international courts. 

It also went on to assert that its conflict was not with Jewish people, but with "the Zionist project".  

"Hamas does not wage a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish but wages a struggle against the Zionists who occupy Palestine," it said. 

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"Yet, it is the Zionists who constantly identify Judaism and the Jews with their own colonial project and illegal entity."

It added that Palestinians stood against injustice against civilians, including "what the Jews were exposed to by Nazi Germany". 

"Here, we remind that the Jewish problem in essence was a European problem, while the Arab and Islamic environment was - across history - a safe haven to the Jewish people and to other peoples of other beliefs and ethnicities," it said. 

"We reject the exploitation of the Jewish suffering in Europe to justify the oppression against our people in Palestine."

The report added that armed resistance against occupation was legitimate under international law, and said that lessons in history showed that "resistance is the strategic approach and the only way to liberation and ending the occupation". 

Elsewhere, the movement also said that it "categorically reject[ed]" any international or Israeli plans for the future of Gaza that "serve to prolong the occupation", and that Palestinians should decide their own future.

"We call for standing against the normalisation attempts with the Israeli entity and for a comprehensive boycott of the Israeli occupation and its backers," the report concluded. 

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