Now, the tactic of using human shields has a long, if spotty history. You might remember Saddam Hussein detaining hundreds of westerners, including children, to be distributed throughout the country to military installations to deter western attacks. But in most cases, human shields have not prevented attacks, and with the rise of air power the long accepted prohibition against armies targeting civilians and civilian areas has eroded.
But there are two considerations that make the situation in Gaza different. First, Israel is not threatened in any meaningful way. There is never any real urgency to the attacks. Before the current cease-fire, Israel had struck 2,400 ground targets from the air. Think about that. If Israel had struck only 1,900, or only 900, how many fewer innocents would have died? Of COURSE Israel is choosing to kill these women, children and the elderly. The entire Gaza occupation is predicated on collective punishment, a specifically enumerated war crime in Geneva IV.
And that brings us to the other consideration. Gaza is currently under occupation, and blockade, by Israel. That makes Israel RESPONSIBLE for the well being of civilians under occupation under international law. The responsibilities of an occupying power are not ambiguous, they are clearly delineated in treaties that carry the force of law. There might be a long military history of ignoring human shields, but when those humans are people whose well-being you are as a nation legally obligated to protect, and you choose to kill them anyway, that cannot be anything but a horrific war crime.
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