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Congress Pushes for New Amendment to Look Into Hamas’s Use of Human Shields

The bipartisan initiative, led by Ted Cruz, will also look at Hezbollah, ISIS, and Al Qaeda, in an effort to curb civilian abuse by terrorist groups

Liel Leibovitz
May 25, 2018
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Palestinians riot on Gaza's border with Israel.Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Palestinians riot on Gaza's border with Israel.Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The recent riots in Gaza again brought to the fore the problem of human shields, with Hamas now using not a handful of civilians as cover for its murderous attacks on Israel but tens of thousands of unarmed people, there to confound the Israeli soldiers as the terror group’s operatives conduct their assaults.

And while Hamas has seldom put its own civilian constituents at risk on such a large scale before, it’s no stranger to the practice of using human shields: In 2014, for example, the terror group stored mortars and weapons in at least three UN schools, using them as bases from which to fire on Israel. The same practice was applied in 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defense, and, last month, the European Parliament, in an uncharacteristic step, condemned Hamas for once again using civilians as cover in its recent marches on the Israeli border.

Thankfully, a new bipartisan amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act seeks to make it more difficult for Hamas—and other terrorist groups, including Hezbollah—to continue this practice. Proposed by Ted Cruz (R.-TX), the amendment calls on the Defense and State Departments to issue a report on the use of human shields by terrorist groups. It’s supposed to be submitted in a timely way and will focus on guidelines for civilized countries fighting against terrorists such as Hamas and Hezbollah who use human shields.

“Terrorists have increasingly been using civilians as human shields, in no small part because they know that the media can be trusted to falsely blame civilian deaths on the civilized countries battling against the terrorists,” said Senator Cruz. “American forces have faced this challenge with terrorist groups Al Qaeda and ISIS. Our Israeli allies have recently faced it with Iran-backed Hamas terrorists who have been trying to breach Israel’s border with Gaza for months, and have in the past deliberately put their military command centers in schools, hospitals, mosques, and homes. My amendment requires a report to Congress that describes what we’ve learned from these terrorists’ tactics and what we can do about it, so that we can deter, counter, and defeat these terrorist organizations.”

For the sake of both Israeli and Palestinian victims of this gruesome tactic, it’s heartening to see that some attention is being paid to this blatant violation of international law and basic morality.

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.