Dealing with Hamas’s human shield tactics

Pilots often ordered to call off air strikes at last moment.

November 20, 2012 03:29
2 minute read.
IDF real time footage of bomb target

IDF real time footage of bomb target 370. (photo credit: YouTube screenshot)


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The radio message to the Israel Air Force pilot en route to bombing a Hamas rocket launcher in Gaza came in loud and clear: Abort mission.

Civilians spotted, the pilot was told.

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It was one of many occasions in which pilots were ordered to call off air strikes in the last moment, after real-time footage of the target area revealed the presence of Palestinian non-combatants.

The IAF is dealing with an enemy keen on using the densely populated Gaza Strip as a rocket base, often shooting the projectiles from the tops of residential buildings, or near schools, mosques, and other public places.

Such tactics are not new for Hamas and Islamic Jihad. In recent years, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya declared that “the Palestinians are a nation of jihad and martyrdom,” while Hamas MP Fathi Hamed, addressing Israel, said, “We desire death more than you desire life.

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Hamed went on to state that, “For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry, at which women excel... the elderly excel at this... and so do the children.

This is why they have formed human shields of the women, the children.”

Hamas TV campaigns instruct the population that “bombs are more precious than children.”

In line with this ideology, rockets and explosives are hidden in Gazan homes, and senior terrorists, such as Yahiya Abiya, the head of Hamas’s rocket program, often remain in homes surrounded by civilians.

While the IDF makes major efforts to avoid harming civilians, such as distributing warning leaflets instructing noncombatants to stay away from areas used by Hamas to fire on Israel, phoning- in warnings, and deliberately missing targets on the first strike, to give civilians time to leave, these attempts at caution don’t always succeed.

In the case of Abiya, the air strike killed 10 Palestinian civilians, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

While Abiya was hit in the strike, it seems fair to assume that IDF planners were not aware of the fact that the home was filled with noncombatants as well.

Each air strike carries its own cost-risk analysis, a calculation influenced by the level of threat posed by the intended target.

Yahiya was responsible for firing thousands upon thousands of rockets at Ashdod, Beersheba, and Ashkelon, and would have been seen as a high-value target.

This won’t be the last time that senior Hamas terrorists will seek cover behind Palestinian civilians.

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