Israel uses its civilians as human shields during its attack on Gaza

By Robert Inlakesh
The Last American Vagabond

Israel’s latest assault on the besieged Gaza Strip resulted in the murder of 33 Palestinians, a third of them women and children, in a “targeted assassination” campaign, again, with a majority of those killed being civilians. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, attempted to score a domestic political victory, however, the plot didn’t quite go to plan.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning last week, at around 2:00AM, Israeli fighter jets began bombarding the besieged Gaza Strip. Three prominent leaders of the second most powerful armed group in the territory, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement (PIJ), were killed along with their wives and children in the initial strikes. Although Western corporate media attempted to brush over this fact, it is a violation of international law to break a ceasefire agreement by murdering none-active combatants along with their families. There were no legal proceedings, no plausible threat to the Israeli side, and the regime failed to produce any evidence that killing the individuals they targeted would prevent any future threat — in fact they demonstrated the very opposite.

Tel Aviv notified the United States government about its intentions and Washington did not prevent the attack, making them complicit in the war crimes committed. The Israeli military also used American aircraft in order to carry out its assassination campaign.

In total, 33 Palestinians were killed, roughly a third of them women and children, with over 110 suffering wounds from the Israeli onslaught, 38 of whom were children. On the other side, 1 Israeli was killed by Palestinian retaliatory rocket fire, with a number of others injured. It is expected that Israel is again hiding their combatant deaths, after a gag order was placed on the destruction of military sites during the confrontation. Among the hundreds of sites bombarded by the Israelis was the Beit Lahia Cemetery, an act which was condemned by Gaza’s Ministry of Waqf and Islamic Affairs as “a flagrant violation of the sanctity of the dead”. Ninety-four Gazan families, comprising 535 people, lost their sources of livelihood in Gaza due to the bombings, a further 800 people were displaced, with 940 buildings damaged and 15 residential blocks, containing over 50 apartments, being completely destroyed.

A Strategic Israeli Failure

The latest Israeli onslaught against the Gaza Strip was committed for political purposes only, it had nothing to do with preventing future attacks and preventing the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) movement from firing rockets, this is despite what Israel’s official propaganda suggested. The far-right coalition, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been in a perpetual state of crisis since the beginning of its reign, with the hardline Religious Zionism alliance parties acting upon their dogmatic belief systems; openly causing chaos both domestically and internationally.

In my previous article for The Last American Vagabond, I explained the reasoning behind Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to attack Gaza at this time, which is why I will now emphasize the main points without going into too much detail. One goal of Benjamin Netanyahu’s attack on the PIJ movement in Gaza, was to appease his own partners in government and calm inter-coalition tensions which arose over the weak performances of the Israeli military during the past months. Another goal was to assure the Israeli public of the restoration of their “deterrence capacity”. This is very important for the Israeli public and is a phrase that basically translates to Israel’s ability to instill fear in their enemies through disproportionate responses to aggression — which often rises to the level of Collective Punishment, a war crime routinely committed by the Israeli government. An additional component was to attempt to divide the PIJ movement from Hamas, also punishing the PIJ organisation for its continued efforts to aid the newly formed armed groups inside the West Bank and hence separating them from their fellow fighters in the adjacent occupied territory.

Tel Aviv’s assassination campaign was clearly modeled on last year’s successful attack, in the month of August. Under the leadership of former Israeli PM, Yair Lapid, the decision was taken to carry out the assassinations of Tayseer Jaabari and Khaled Mansour, two prominent PIJ movement senior officials. Lapid’s attack was designed to bolster his standing as a strong politician and succeeded to achieve this goal, despite failing at the lesser aim of dividing Hamas from PIJ. The attack in August of last year did not cost the Israelis a single death from its civilian population, with all possible military casualties covered up. Benjamin Netanyahu had hoped to replicate this scenario, which proved even more successful than the campaign launched under his leadership in 2019 against the PIJ movement, when the military wing’s senior official, Baha Abu Atta, was assassinated.

The tactics used by the Palestinian Joint Room, for the resistance factions in Gaza, managed to thwart the regime’s attempt to pull off such a victory. A number of tactics, such as launching a powerful rocket towards Tel Aviv that demonstrated the power of some rockets in their arsenal, in addition to holding their retaliatory fire for around a day and a half, worked to inflict strategic defeats on the Israelis. Although on paper PIJ suffered a blow, it was Israel that came out as the loser, failing to achieve its goals in the campaign. 

From the get-go, Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, made it clear that the operation had already met its objectives with the initial assassination strikes and that it was specifically targeted at taking out senior leaders in PIJ. However, the fact that the armed groups waited so long to respond caused great anxiety on the Israeli side. Bomb shelters were opened all over occupied Palestine, roads were shut down and a state of fear arose, all in anticipation of what was to come. This led to massive debates within the Israeli political class and in the public. People were not happy that the fear of a PIJ retaliation had such an effect and began to question their deterrence capacity, the Israeli joy over the assassinations quickly subsided and the pressure began to mount on Benjamin Netanyahu, again.

Before the armed groups in Gaza fired a single shot, the mood and popular understanding of events had shifted to a line that favored the Palestinian resistance. When this point was reached, and Israel’s repeated attacks failed to provoke an early response, thats when they launched the first batch of rockets. The embarrassment was too much for Netanyahu to let go, so, against the advice of the military leadership, he ordered another batch of assassinations on PIJ leaders. This then led to a rocket barrage which inflicted one death and several injuries, damaging Israeli infrastructure, in addition to triggering sirens in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and the Gush Etzion West Bank settlement.

In order to apply pressure on the armed groups in Gaza, Israel carried on with its usual tactics of bringing down civilian buildings, damaging hospitals, a graveyard, and a UN facility. When the ceasefire was finally announced for 10:00 PM (Palestine time) on Saturday, until the very last minute the armed groups fired rockets towards Tel Aviv, Ashkelon, and Sderot. The message was clear, there was no goal achieved through the assassination campaign, other than the assassinations themselves. However, even in the cases of those killed in the leadership of PIJ, they were quickly replaced. The whole attack was a meaningless failure, resulting in civilian casualties for nothing.

Israel uses its own people as human shields

A common argument used against the Palestinian armed groups in Gaza is that they use their own civilians as human shields. If you have ever listened to an Israeli official talk about one of their onslaughts against Gaza, this has to be the number one excuse used to explain why the civilian death toll is always so high, in addition to why there is always a disproportionate number of child deaths. Numerous investigations have been carried out in order to find cases of the armed groups using human shields, there have even been reports from experts at the United Nations and top human rights organizations that looked into such claims. There has never once been an example documented of Hamas, PIJ, or any other Gazan armed organization, using civilians as human shields during the countless Gaza-Israel wars.

On the other hand, Israel has a long track record of using Palestinians as human shields. It used to be a standard military practice until is was outlawed by the Israeli supreme court in the early 2000’s, which the Israeli military attempted to appeal in 2005 in order to make it legal to continue using Palestinians as human shields. Since then, there have been countless cases reported of Palestinians being used as human shields by Israeli soldiers. Despite the frequently recorded cases, the last time an Israeli soldier was punished for it was in 2010 during an attack on Gaza. Two Israeli soldiers used a 9-year-old Palestinian child as a human shield, for which they were reportedly demoted and handed suspended sentences, however, their names were never revealed. For such a crime, they weren’t even kicked out of the military. Last year, Israeli soldiers also used a 16-year-old Palestinian girl as a human shield in Jenin. At least three cases of human shields being used by Israeli forces have been reported so far this year.

When Israeli propagandists make their human shield claims today, they now refrain from attempting to make the literal case of human shield taking, such as was outlined by the Israeli practices above; using civilians to protect you from hostile fire. Instead, pro-Israel propagandists claim that because Palestinians fire from areas close to civilians, or armed group members live with their families in civilian buildings, they hide behind them. This argument assumes that Israel’s military and political leaderships care about avoiding civilian deaths, which defies all logic, considering every round of aggression they massacre children and the majority of the dead are always civilians.

In fact, it is the Israeli government that commits this sort of human shielding — using their own roughly defined idea of course. While the Israeli military has precision weapons and a large standing army, they have the ability to target precisely what they want, they also have the capacity to confront the Palestinian armed groups on the ground. In addition to this, the only way for Israel to take out the threat of rocket launchers, is to carry out a ground incursion.

On the other side, the Palestinians do not have a ground force capable of crossing the separation fence to attack the Israeli military and fight a conventional war, because Israel refuses to engage with them in this way and instead launches missile strikes at their positions if they attempt to cross. Palestinians also have access to limited weapon supplies, their relatively primitive rockets have no guidance systems and are indiscriminate; meaning they cannot target anything. Therefore, the Palestinian resistance only has one option to fight back, they must fire their rockets.

Israel knows the above mentioned facts to be true. It then decides that it will carry out illegal acts of aggression against the Gaza Strip and hides its soldiers miles away in fortified areas, making sure they are nowhere in site and are protected from ever having to engage in combat. Israel uses its advanced weapons technology to strike inside Gaza, during the last round even bombing repeatedly to draw a response, and lets its own civilian population bear the consequences of their actions.

The Israeli military hide away from Gaza, knowing they will not have to confront anyone, while Israeli civilians endure days of rocket fire that will occasionally kill them and damage their properties. While Israeli civilians enter bomb shelters and have their lives disrupted, the Israeli military are safe and without worry, watching on through drones and waiting for the orders to carry out new strikes that kill overwhelmingly civilians in Gaza. When Israeli spokespeople say that the Palestinians are “targeting civilians”, this is a lie, because you cannot target anyone with an indiscriminate munition. That is why there is an argument in international law to suggest that the rockets may be illegal. On the other hand, Israel does have precision weapons and repeatedly fails to achieve any demonstrable defensive achievements.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.