Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - A Hamas parliamentarian has openly admitted to developing a "death-seeking" culture that uses women, children and the elderly as human shields against Israeli military attacks.
"[The enemies of Allah] do not know that the Palestinian people have developed [methods] of death and death-seeking," Hamas parliamentarian, Fathi Hammad said in a speech televised on Hamas' Al-Aksa television station two weeks ago. (A transcript was made available by the Middle East Media Research Institute on Thursday.)
"For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry, at which women excel, and so do all the people living on this land. The elderly excel at this, and so do the mujahideen and the children," Hammad said.
"This is why they have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly, and the mujahideen, in order to challenge the Zionist [Israel] bombing machine. It is as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: 'We desire death like you desire life,'" he said.
Days after that speech, Israel launched a military operation in the Gaza Strip to halt rocket fire against its civilian population. More than 100 Palestinians were killed during that operation. Israel said 90 percent of them were armed militants, but Palestinians complained that half were civilians, many of them children.
Israel was severely criticized by the international community for the military operation.
"Israel is faced with moral challenges unprecedented in their complexity," the Israeli Foreign Ministry said at the time.
In a statement on its Web site, the Israeli Foreign Ministry accused Hamas of deliberately launching rockets from areas populated with civilians; using civilian homes to shield its arms and explosives manufacturing facilities; and using civilians as human shields at places where air strikes were anticipated.
"In order to avoid civilian casualties, Israel sends warning messages before attacking terrorist targets, advising civilians to leave. Israel prefers to attack empty buildings used to manufacture rockets, even taking into consideration that the terrorists too will be warned and their lives spared," the Foreign Ministry said.
"Hamas, on the other hand, calls on civilians to come and to protect with their bodies the precise locations they expect Israel to attack. Since they know that Israel will usually strike from the air, they send the children to the roofs to prevent the air force from targeting that building."
The human shield tactic is not new.
In November 2006, at least a dozen Palestinian gunmen avoided Israeli capture in Gaza when they took refuge in a mosque and called on women and children to shield them so they could escape.
See Earlier Stories:
Human Shields Pose Dilemma for Israeli Army (Nov. 20, 2006)
Hamas Urges Women, Children to Shield Gunmen in Mosque, November 3, 2006
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