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Hamas' Human Shields Tactics

The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at Israel's Center for Special Studies has an interesting look at the rising use of human shields in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. By all accounts, it appears a tactic that will remain persistent so long as it remains successful, employing willing Palestinian civilians to surround and occupy rooftops of the homes and sanctuaries of Palestinian terrorists.

On November 19 Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya visited PRC operative Muhammad Barud and was warmly received by the civilians who were there as human shields. He was quoted by a radio commentator as saying, “I am certain that what happened [here] tonight will happen again…It is a good example for the Palestinian people and sends the message that aggression will not break our will…(Radio Sawt Al-Quds, November 19).

Sheik Nizar Rayan , who took part in “defending” Muhammad Barud's house, announced the beginning of a campaign to “defend jihad fighters' houses.” He said that “ from today on [jihad fighters] will not allow Israel to attack their houses …” In a different interview he said that men and women had gone to Muhammad Barud's house and were divided into daytime and nighttime shifts (Palestinian TV, November 19; Hamas's Pal-media Website, November 19 and 20).

Observers will recall the recent incident in Beit Hanun when Hamas called for and recieved dozens of Palestinian women who came running to shield a Gaza mosque from Israeli attack, allowing the pursued Hamas terrorists to flee under their cover. Two women were killed in that clash and the attempted spin characterized the Israelis as the killers of women and children rather than Palestinian civilians willfully putting themselves in the line of fire.

The tactic looks to be a trend that will continue, providing effective cover and protection for the terrorists when it wards off Israeli attack while supplying civilian attack propoganda against Israel when it does not.

So long as there are willing civilians to serve in such a role - in the Palestinian territories and elsewhere - it further blurs the distinction between the terrorists and the civilian populations they embed themselves within, thrusting upon Israel and others a moral quandary: Are the terrorists to be pursued in the name of security or are the repurcussions of harm to civilians (even those willing to inject themselves into the line of fire) too great a burden to bear for a nation already under persistent international media fire?