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July 25, 2018 4:58 pm

US Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Counter Use of Human Shields by Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad

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Hamas terrorists in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah in January 2017. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90.

US lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill on Tuesday to counter the use of human shields by terrorist groups, including Hamas, Hezbollah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The STOP Using Human Shields Act — brought forward by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) — would impose sanctions on terrorist organizations and others who have used “civilians or protected property to deliberately cause casualties or shield lawful targets from attack.”

It would also commit the US representative at the UN Security Council to advance a resolution placing multilateral sanctions on terrorist groups that use human shields, while requiring the UN to track the practice and member states to take steps against those who employ it.

Among these identified groups is Lebanon-based Hezbollah, which during its 2006 conflict with Israel “purposefully used civilians in an effort to shield themselves against attacks by Israeli forces,” the bill noted.

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The Iranian proxy was further accused of willfully endangering non-combatants “by storing weapons inside civilian homes and launching attacks from firing positions in areas of dense civilian population, often in or near homes, schools, mosques or hospitals, in order to shield such positions from attack.”

Hezbollah is believed to have amassed some 150,000 rockets and missiles since the conflict, in violation of United Nations Resolution 1701, which bans arms transfers to the group. “These weapons, as well as Hizballah command posts, logistics depots, and other vital military assets, are often concealed in Shiite villages in southern Lebanon, frequently within or near homes, hospitals, schools, and mosques,” the legislation warned.

The Gaza Strip’s Islamist rulers were similarly criticized for “routinely and purposefully” using civilians to shield military assets. Aside from directly launching attacks from densely populated areas, Hamas has been involved in “discouraging Palestinian civilians from heeding Israeli warnings, instructing Palestinian civilians to remain in their homes, and encouraging or forcing Palestinian civilians to gather on the roofs of their homes to act as human shields.”

Illustrating the extent of the problem, the legislation listed two instances in 2017 when the United Nations discovered Hamas tunnels under its schools in Gaza.

“The use of human shields — including by terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah — is barbaric, illegal, and offensive to the most basic standards of human decency,” said Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), a co-sponsor and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

His colleague on the committee, Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), said the “new sanctions category will give the United States Treasury Department another tool to cut off Hamas and Hezbollah from the global community.”

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