Israel accuses Hamas of hiding weapons depots near civilian buildings

Israel accuses Hamas of hiding weapons depots near civilian buildings
Israel accuses Hamas of placing military targets such as weapons depots near civilian buildings, including a Pepsi factory and a UN-run school.
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Israel has repeatedly attacked the Gaza strip and engaged with fighters from Hamas' military wing [Getty]

Israel published images on Wednesday which officials said showed weapons depots and tunnels in Gaza near a school, a Pepsi factory and other buildings and accused the Palestinian militant group Hamas of deliberately hiding them in civilian areas.

The military's Southern Command released drone footage and coordinates which it said showed tunnels and weapons production sites in densely populated civilian areas including near al-Shifa hospital and the Islamic University of Gaza.

Other sites included a UN-run school, a medical clinic, a library and mosques.

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"Hamas launches attacks from within population centres and targets population centres – the world must be aware of this crime against humanity and must exact a heavy price from Hamas," Defence Minister Benny Gantz said.

He said Israel would act with "precision and force" to defend its citizens.

Hamas, the Islamist group which governs the Gaza Strip, rejected the statement.

"These are lies the occupation is circulating to justify its crimes against innocent civilians during the wars it conducted against Gaza," said Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem.

"We warn that these lies may be a pretext to commit more crimes against civilians," he said.

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Gaza is a densely populated strip of land where some 2.3 million Palestinians live on a patch of 365 square kilometres (140 square miles). 

In 2006, Israel imposed a blockade on the coastal enclave after Hamas won a general election in the territory. Their electoral success resulted in clashes with rivals from Fatah, the movement that runs the Palestinian Authority (PA). Israel tightened its blockade on the Gaza Strip after Hamas forcibly took over the territory from Fatah in 2007.

Because of the Israeli blockade, about 1.5 million Gazans have become impoverished, according to a report issued by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor in January.