Much has been made by Israeli PM Netanyahu of Hamas’ use of human shields as a means of exploiting the IDF rules of engagement. CNN noted in a report on Gaza civilian deaths in Israel’s war with Hamas:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on CNN that it was difficult to measure the bloodshed of the conflict because “Hamas is using them, Palestinians, as human shields.”
“We develop anti-missile systems to protect, we use anti-missile systems to protect our civilians,” he said. “They use their civilians to protect their missiles. That’s the difference.”
The IDF said Monday it found a “Hamas combat manual” that IDF says proves the group uses its people as human shields. A CNN translation of the two pages posted by the IDF did not find specific statements that Hamas uses its own civilian population as human shields, but one section discusses the benefits for Hamas when civilian homes are destroyed. CNN could not confirm the authenticity of the manual, and neither the IDF nor Hamas could be reached for comment.
The IDF blog published its review of Hamas Combat Manual captured in the battle for Shuja’iya, “Captured Hamas Combat Manual Explains Benefits of Human Shields”.
The IDF blog post noted how the purported Hamas combat manual exploits IDF rules of engagement in urban warfare:
IDF forces in the Gaza Strip found a Hamas manual on “Urban Warfare,” which belonged to the Shuja’iya Brigade of Hamas’ military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades. The manual explains how the civilian population can be used against IDF forces and reveals that Hamas knows the IDF is committed to minimizing harm to civilians.
It further emphasized:
This Hamas urban warfare manual exposes two truths: (1) The terror group knows full well that the IDF will do what it can to limit civilian casualties. (2) The terror group exploits these efforts by using civilians as human shields against advancing IDF forces.
In a portion entitled “Limiting the Use of Weapons,” the manual explains that:
The soldiers and commanders (of the IDF) must limit their use of weapons and tactics that lead to the harm and unnecessary loss of people and [destruction of] civilian facilities. It is difficult for them to get the most use out of their firearms, especially of supporting fire [e.g. artillery].
Clearly Hamas knows the IDF will limit its use of weapons in order to avoid harming civilians, including refraining from using larger firepower to support for infantry.
The manual espouses basic urban warfare directed at using civilian population in concentrated areas to impede IDF advances:
The manual goes on to explain that the “presence of civilians are pockets of resistance” that cause three major problems for advancing troops: Problems with opening fire; Problems in controlling the civilian population during operations and afterward; and Assurance of supplying medical care to civilians who need it.
It also justified the destruction civilian houses arousing hatred of IDF forces:
It is clear that Hamas actually desires the destruction of homes and civilian infrastructure, knowing it will increase hatred for the IDF and support their fighters.
Destruction of civilian residences does something else. The rubble from the destroyed structures provides covered firing positions for defending Hamas fighters. The IDF should reflect on classic examples of that the fierce fighting during WWII in Stalingrad, the Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising of April to May 1943, the Polish resistance in the Warsaw uprising of August –September 1944.
The IDF recognized that in this comment on the intense battle for Shuja’iya:
The IDF fought a major battle in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shuja’iya, which had been turned into a terrorist stronghold. The discovery of this manual suggests that the destruction in Shuja’iya was always part of Hamas’ plan.
A companion map by The IDF of the Shuja’iya district of Gaza City annotated command posts, tunnels, rocket firings and launching sites, tunnels and weapons caches,
Former British Army Col. Richard Kemp in his Gatestone Institute article analyzing civilian casualties observed:
By definition Israeli soldiers’ lives are placed at greater risk by restrictive rules of engagement intended to minimize civilian casualties. But commanders in the field must balance their concern for civilians with the preservation of their own men’s lives and fighting effectiveness.
These realities aside, all Palestinian civilian casualties in this conflict result ultimately from Gaza terrorists’ aggression against Israel, and Hamas’s use of human shields – the most important plank of Hamas’s war-fighting policy.
Storing and firing weapons within densely populated areas, compelling civilians to stay put when warned to leave, luring Israeli forces to attack and kill their own people, the Palestinian body count is vital to Hamas’s propaganda war that aims to bring international pressure on Israel and incite anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic hatred around the world.
This sickening exploitation of their own people’s suffering, and media’s complicity in it, is nowhere more cynically demonstrated than in the operating theaters of the Gaza Strip. Without the slightest regard for life-saving hygiene, or for the care, privacy or dignity of the wounded, Palestinian officials enthusiastically hustle camera crews in to the emergency room as desperate surgeons’ battle for a bleeding and broken child’s life.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.
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