Heritage's Phillips: Hamas Is Using Civilians as Human Shields

Monday, 14 Jul 2014 09:15 PM

By Sean Piccoli

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By "hiding among Palestinian civilians while hurling rockets at Israel civilians," the Gaza-based terror group Hamas is employing a "cynical" human-shield tactic that is also prosecutable as a war crime, a Middle East analyst told Newsmax TV on Monday.

James Phillips, Heritage Foundation's senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner that one press report out of Gaza since the current conflict erupted says Hamas put civilians on the roof of a building targeted by Israeli air strikes.

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"When Hamas finds out that Israel is targeting a certain building — and it finds out because the Israelis actually call people in that building ahead of time and warn them that they have a short period to get out — Hamas has been known to try to mobilize people to stand on the roof of that building," said Phillips. "And that's just one of the many ways it uses civilians as shields."

Israel's air war against Hamas briefly became a ground campaign on Sunday, when Israeli commandos raided a suspected launch site for rockets that Hamas has fired into Israel by the hundreds since last week. 

But Phillips said Israel is treading carefully. 

"I don’t think [Israel] really wants to go in on the ground because it knows that not only would the cost in terms of Israeli casualties be a lot higher, but the cost in terms of Palestinian casualties would be much higher," said Phillips.

While Hamas now has more dangerous, longer-range missiles provided by Iran, which has also supplied Hamas with drones, Israel has a new ally in the conflict whose help could reduce the need for another Israeli ground invasion: Egypt.

"The ace up their sleeves is the fact they [Israelis] have much closer security cooperation with Egypt after the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Cairo," said Phillips.

The current Egyptian government, which has different sympathies, "is taking a much more strongly anti-Hamas position, and has closed the smuggling tunnels [into Gaza]. So that will limit Hamas' ability to re-arm going forward," said Phillips.

Iranian drones that have already been smuggled into Gaza remain a concern, said Phillips.

"Iran also has given drones to Hezbollah," said Phillips, citing the Lebanon-based terror group, "and Hezbollah on at least one occasion flew a drone over the Israeli nuclear reactor at Dimona in order to send a signal that if there was a future clash between Hezbollah and Israel, that Hezbollah would be shooting for that facility."

Phillips said authorities think the Hamas drone that Israel shot down was smuggled into Gaza in pieces and re-assembled.

"So there could be more drones coming out of Gaza in the future," he said.

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