In its fight to defend itself against Hamas attacks against its civilians, Israel is faced with moral challenges unprecedented in their complexity. Hamas, as a basic element of its strategy, exploits the Palestinian population as shields for its terrorist operations and infrastructure. This cynical strategy include the following tactics:
- The deliberate launching of rocket from populated areas
- The deliberate use of civilian homes to shield Hamas arms and explosives manufacturing facilities
- The deliberate use of civilians as human shields against anticipated airstrikes
Deliberate use of civilians as human shields against anticipated air-strikes
In order to avoid civilian casualties, Israel sends warning messages before attacking terrorist targets advising civilians to leave. Israel prefers to attack empty buildings used to manufacture rockets, even taking into consideration that the terrorists too will be warned and their lives spared.
Hamas, on the other hand, calls on civilians to come and to protect with their bodies the precise locations they expect Israel to attack. Since they know that Israel will usually strike from the air, they send the children to the roofs to prevent the air force from targeting that building.
During the course of the Israeli operation against terrorists in the Gaza Strip (March 2008), Hamas repeatedly called upon Palestinian civilians to gather near buildings where they feared that the IDF was about to launch air-strikes against Hamas targets hidden within. The purpose of the civilian presence was to have them serve as human shields, exploiting the fact that the IDF avoids harming Palestinian civilians, even if it means aborting attacks on crucial terrorist infrastructure targets.
The following are but a few of the documented examples of calls in the Hamas controlled Gaza media for Palestinians civilians to serve as human shields:
1) Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV called upon children to form a human shield at the home of Abu al-Hatal of the a-Shouqaf quarter of Sajaiyeh in order to protect the building from an anticipated IDF airstrike (March 1).
2) Al-Aqsa TV News broadcast a story about how a crowd of civilians gathered on the roof of Abu Bilal al-Ja’abeer in the Northern Gaza strip, in order cause the IDF to abort a threatened airstrike against the structure.
3) Al-Aqsa TV called upon the Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip to go to the house of Othman al-Ruziana in order to protect it against an anticipated IDF strike (February 29).
4) Al-Aqsa TV called upon the residents of Khan Yunis to gather at the house of Ma’amoun Abu ‘Amer due to an anticipated airstrike. (February 28). An hour later dozens of Palestinians from Khan Yunis were reported to have gathered on the roof of Abu ‘Amer’s house to serve as human shields to prevent the house from being hit (Pal-today Website, February 28).
5) Excerpts from a speech by Hamas MP Fathi Hammad, broadcast on Al-Aqsa TV on February 29, 2008: The purpose of the civilian presence was to have them serve as human shields, exploiting the fact that the IDF avoids harming Palestinian civilians.
Fathi Hammad: [The enemies of Allah] do not know that the Palestinian people has developed its [methods] of death and death-seeking. For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry, at which women excel, and so do all the people living on this land. The elderly excel at this, and so do the mujahideen and the children. This is why they have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly, and the mujahideen, in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine. It is as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: "We desire death like you desire life."