The Israeli army captured on video a group of terrorists near an elementary school in Gaza preparing to launch mortar shells. They would launch the shells from a yard next to an elementary school, then flee the site, leaving the school squarely in the path of any possible Israeli retaliation. According to Israeli military officials, the Israeli army identified the school and withheld fire.
One Israeli army officer expressed the dilemma:
"They don't think twice about firing Qassam rockets near crowded public areas, even though they're fully aware that they're endangering innocent civilians. We're constantly faced with very difficult and complex dilemmas, how best to defend Israel's citizens and strike at these terror cells while at the same time avoid civilian casualties on the Palestinian side. The terror organizations are well aware of our sensitivity to these issues and they take full advantage of the situation. This is as cynical as their use of the civilian population gets."
This tactic of using one's own civilians as human shields is of course nothing new. Hezbollah used it to great effect in the war of summer 2006. Now Palestinians are practicing it so they can shell Israeli cities while still portraying themselves as victims.
Those who defend the Palestinians ask, "What choice do they have? Where else can they go? Gaza is so tiny. They have to fire those rockets from somewhere." I guess this makes sense if one really does not want to abrogate the inalienable right of Palestinians to murder Israeli civilians. Still, couldn't they at least find a vacant lot somewhere not right next to a school? Wouldn't it be smart to take reasonable safety precautions when firing deadly weapons?
Islamic extremists are only too willing to confer martyrdom on their own people. The Taliban do the same thing in Afghanistan, against the U.S. There is much resentment against the U.S. among the Afghan people, because so many civilians have been killed. Asked by Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes how often air strikes are cancelled at the last minute, Air Force Colonel Gary Crowder replied: "Thousands and thousands of times a month. We look very, very often, we tracked some of the insurgent leaders we will track for days and days on end. And we are prepared to strike them at any moment. But we can never get all of the criteria necessary to meet our rules of engagement." Added Marc Garlasco of the Pentagon: "I don't think people really appreciate the gymnastics that the U.S. military goes through in order to make sure that they're not killing civilians."
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