IDF using Facebook to threaten to destroy Gaza family’s home

The army says Hamas built a tunnel under a six-story apartment building that houses the Hammad family, threatening to destroy it. Most of the family has already fled.

Elizabeth Tanboura stands with three of her daughters: Sundos, Malak, and Marwa (right), in front of their destroyed home in Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip. Elizabth lost her husband and 2 of her children during an Israeli attack on August 25, 2014. Two other boys survived as they were not in the house at the time of the attack. Photo taken March 19, 2015. (Anne Paq/
Illustrative photo of a Gaza family who lost their home during the 2014 Gaza war. (Anne Paq/

The IDF is using Facebook to threaten to destroy the home of a Gaza family, claiming Hamas has built a tunnel directly underneath it.

On August 10, Yoav Mordechai, commander of the IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), announced on the unit’s Arabic Facebook page that the IDF had discovered two tunnels built by Hamas, which has ruled the Strip since 2006, under both an apartment building and a nearby mosque in the town of Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip.

In his post, Mordechai warned the residents living in and around the six-story apartment building — home to 21 members of the Hammad family, including four women and 12 children — that Hamas was using them as “human shields,” and thus their lives are now in danger due to a potential Israeli military strike on the area.

According to Adalah — The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, some of the family members fled the building in response to the threats. The less fortunate ones, who had nowhere to go, stayed behind.

That same day, Israel’s Channel 10 published aerial imagery of the building along with remarks made by Israel’s Southern Command Chief Eyal Zamir, who reiterated the claim that Hamas had been digging tunnels under the home, without providing any evidence.

Commander of the IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Yoav Mordechai’s Facebook message to the Hammad family, urging them to leave their apartment building or face the possibility of an Israeli attack. The apartment building and mosque under threat are marked in red.

Several days later, Omar Hammad, the owner of the building, received a phone call from an individual who identified himself as a member of Israeli military intelligence, who proceeded to inform Hammad that he and his family’s lives were in danger.

Over the past few years, Hamas has developed a sophisticated network of tunnels, running some dozens of miles below the Gaza Strip, which are used both to smuggle goods and for military purposes, including infiltration into Israel.

Adalah and the Gaza-based Al Mezan Center for Human Rights have both called on the IDF to immediately halt its threats against the family and other civilians in Gaza, which they say violate international law.

According to the Geneva Conventions, acts or threats of violence that seek to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited.

“International law forces us to distinguish between civilians and enemy combatants,” said Adalah attorney Muna Haddad. “According to the law, even the presence of a large number of combatants, is not sufficient to justify an attack which would cause disproportionate damage to nearby civilians.”

“These are civilians we are talking about,” Haddad added, “people who were forced to flee their home and change their lives because of the army’s threat. It goes directly against international law.”