War crimes and crimes against humanity: Hamas’ atrocities against Israel

In its continual attack on Israel, Hamas has committed unspeakable atrocities against civilians.
Photographs of some of those taken hostage by Hamas terrorists during their recent attacks are seen on October 18, 2023 in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Since October 7th, Hamas has killed over 1,400 people in Israel, including civilians and soldiers, and abducted 250 people to the Gaza Strip.

Over 250 were gunned down at the Supernova music festival and hundreds more were slaughtered in their homes in the towns and villages in the Gaza envelope.

In its continual attack on Israel, Hamas has committed unspeakable atrocities against civilians, killing babies, women, children and families, many in barbaric ways, and raping and abusing women.

At Kibbutz Kfar Aza, IDF soldiers uncovered the remains of some 40 babies, some of whom had been burned. There have been several accounts of beheadings as a method of the recent Hamas terror. 

A video that circulated on X showed a Hamas fighter attempting to behead a dead Israeli civilian lying in a pool of blood at a bus stop, and Israeli President Isaac Herzog noted witnessing the aftermath of such a scene when touring Kibbutz Be’eri.

Further atrocities involved the elderly and their families. One survivor of the massacre at Kibbutz Nir Oz recounted how she and her family found out her grandmother was killed after a terrorist stole her grandmother’s phone and posted an image of her corpse on her Facebook page.

The Hamas terrorists also raped and perpetrated other acts of sexual violence against women, captured in video footage. One video circulating shows a woman with blood pouring from between her legs being pulled, alive, from a vehicle in Gaza.

Another video shows the naked corpse of a woman facedown in the back of a truck. In an interrogation with a captured Hamas fighter, he stated that his comrades were instructed to inflict as much pain and death as possible on all civilians regardless of age and to rape the women. 

Beyond just the quantified death toll, the sheer brutality of violence against Israeli civilians by Hamas is shocking in its own right. U.S. President Joe Biden likened the actions of Hamas to those of ISIS, stating that “There are moments in this life, when pure unadulterated evil is unleashed on this world.” 

War crimes and crimes against humanity

War crimes and crimes against humanity are severe violations of international law, often committed during times of war.

War crimes are serious breaches of the laws and customs of war, which aim to protect civilians and combatants who are no longer participating in the hostilities. 

Examples include intentional attacks on civilians, using prohibited weapons, killing prisoners of war, and taking hostages. In the case of Hamas, accusations of war crimes stem from their targeting of civilians, use of civilians as human shields, and the mistreatment of bodies.

Crimes against humanity involve widespread or systematic attacks against civilians, including murder, enslavement, torture, and persecution. These crimes are not limited to wartime and can occur during peacetime as well.

Legal experts, like Professor Yuval Shany from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, have accused Hamas of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

“Hamas has committed a long list of crimes in this attack for which have been documented, including the killing of civilians, taking civilians captive, and abusing the bodies of civilians and soldiers,” Professor Shany said

He expects the International Criminal Court to investigate the actions of Hamas in the future, though there is typically a several-year delay before cases are heard. 

Israel has consistently accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields, a practice that is categorically defined as a war crime under Customary International Law. IDF Spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari recently said that Hamas’ main base of operations is under Shifa Hospital in Gaza.

“We have concrete evidence that hundreds of terrorists flooded into the hospital to hide there after the massacres of October 7,” Hagari said.

By conducting military operations within densely populated areas and establishing bases and tunnels under schools and hospitals, Hamas inherently endangers the local civilian population.

The issue of iånternational law is highly complicated and widely discussed, though the specifics are commonly overlooked and enforcement is limited. 

Israel has maintained a contentious relationship with the International Criminal Court, consistently challenging the court’s jurisdiction and authority over its territory and citizens.

The nation argues that it is not subject to ICC investigations since it has not ratified the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the court. This position is supported by the United States, which also holds that the Palestinians do not meet the criteria of a sovereign state required for ICC involvement.

Subscribe to This Week Unpacked

Each week we bring you a wrap-up of all the best stories from Unpacked. Stay in the know and feel smarter about all things Jewish.