Nov 3, 2006 4:35 pm


Terrorists obey no laws of war. Civilians are targeted or recklessly harmed en masse; military forces operate behind human shields, traditional war aims (destroying the war-making and war-waging capacity of the enemy) discarded in favour of random destruction and abusing populations, including their own.

Hizballah displayed all these elements in the recent Lebanon war, especially the use of its own people and other locals as human shields - bombs and ammunition were stored in mosques, rockets fired from civilian homes, rocket launchers set up beside hospitals, gunmen operated from behind U.N. posts, and so on.

In 2002, Palestinian terrorists holed up in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity to elude Israeli forces whom they knew to be loath to enter after them. They used nuns and priests as human shields and left behind booby-trapped explosive devices when they were finally evacuated.

This week, as Judith has noted, Taliban elements used Afghan civilians as human shields, resulting in the death of perhaps as many as 80 civilians.

Now, Hamas has used local radio to call upon Palestinian women to flood the scene of another stand-off between their own gunmen and Israeli forces - this time at a mosque in Beit Hanoun. The 19-hour standoff ended when the gunmen fled under cover of the resultant melée of women, some of them disguised as women. One Palestinian woman was killed and several others wounded in the clash. Other gunmen also used the adjacent hospital as a base of operations.

The problem thus posed for responsible military forces fighting terrorists is obvious - less so the solution.

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N. Friedman - 11/3/2006


The title says it all, as to how Britain views Israel's effort to defend itself.