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The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on May 11 that Israel waited two days to strike an Islamic Jihad commander because he was using his family as human shields. The commander, Ahmad Abu Daqqa, “took a significant part in commanding and carrying out the rocket barrages towards Israel,” the IDF reported, and assumed Israeli forces would not knowingly target civilians. This is a serious accusation leveled by the IDF, as using human shields is a violation of international law and is subject to U.S. sanctions pursuant to the Sanctioning the Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act. Independent verification remains necessary to confirm the IDF’s allegation.

Expert Analysis

“Islamic Jihad is allegedly engaging in the actual war crime of using human shields so that Israel can more easily be falsely accused of committing war crimes such as willfully killing civilians. The United States can — and should — help set the record straight. U.S. law provides for the executive branch to impose sanctions in response to the use of human shields. President Biden should seize the opportunity to do so here, both to support America’s Israeli allies and to bolster U.S. and other NATO troops, who similarly face rampant terrorist use of civilians as human shields.” Orde Kittrie, FDD Senior Fellow

“The complete disregard for human life and the illegitimate use of human shields are both trademarks of the regime in Tehran and its terror proxies throughout the Middle East. Using women and children to shield a mobile terrorist command post demands condemnation from every responsible nation on earth.” Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

Violations of International Law

Whenever Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or Hezbollah uses civilians to shield its weapons or fighters from lawful attack, the terror group commits a war crime violating the Fourth Geneva Convention and customary international law. During the May 2021 Gaza conflict, several outside observers publicly reported Hamas’ use of civilians as human shields for its weapons and fighters. The Associated Press found that “Palestinian fighters are clearly operating in built-up residential areas and have positioned tunnels, rocket launchers, and command and control infrastructure near schools, mosques, and homes.”

NATO Concerns on Human Shields

In 2019, then-NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Curtis Scaparrotti, said, “[I]t is essential that further measures be taken at the national level to maximize enforcement of the international legal prohibition of the use of human shields.” Scaparrotti specifically urged “imposition of sanctions” and “spotlighting of violations.” Such national measures “would decidedly become a major and substantial contribution” to NATO operations.

Demanding Accountability

In addition to using U.S. sanctions to hold people and groups accountable for using human shields, the Biden administration could raise concerns at the United Nations (UN) Security Council, the UN Human Rights Council, the upcoming World Health Assembly, and other appropriate international fora.

Related Analysis

Hold Hamas Accountable for Human-Shields Use During the May 2021 Gaza War,” by Orde Kittrie

Time to Act on Human Shields,” by Orde Kittrie

Misfired Islamic Jihad Rockets Kill Palestinian Children,” FDD Flash Brief

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