Block: Hezbollah preps for new attacks with ‘human shields’
By Joshua S. Block
The Boston Herald
June 30, 2017
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Those who follow events in the Middle East are no stranger to the carnage in Syria, but there is another humanitarian crisis in the making you probably haven’t heard much about. Why? Because you will only read it, splashed across international newspapers, when it is too late and everyone acts surprised and outraged that it happened.
Hezbollah, the Shiite terrorist organization bankrolled by Iran and effectively in control of Lebanon, is steeling itself for a new war with Israel. At the heart of the group’s military strategy is the deployment of human shields — a war crime and terrorist tactic aimed at exploiting the moral sensibility of the enemy.
Israeli military officials have warned that Hezbollah has turned hundreds of Lebanese villages into fighting zones, establishing bases in Beirut, the Bekaa Valley, and southern Lebanon, both “above and below live civilians whom we [Israel] have nothing against — a kind of human shield,” said Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, chief of staff for the Israel Defense Forces.
Hezbollah has a presence in “every third or fourth house,” he added, spread out across 240 villages in southern Lebanon, in blatant violation of U.N. Resolution 1701, which calls for the removal of all armed groups from the area. Hezbollah continues to receive weapons from its patrons in Iran and the U.N. Security Council has so far failed to enforce the resolution.
A significant part of Hezbollah’s military infrastructure is embedded in civilian areas. Rockets, bombs and rifles are placed under homes, schools and hospitals with the grim intention that, if Israel needs to take out Hezbollah’s arsenals in a preventive strike, the operation will lead to mass civilian casualties.
Hezbollah is playing a zero-sum game at the expense of its own population, thus leaving Israel in a tough spot: knock out the weapons before they put at risk the lives of Israelis, or wait until they are deployed and risk the lives of both Israeli and Lebanese civilians. It is a no-win situation for Israel. Either way, Israel will be inevitably blamed for any civilian casualties.
A senior Israeli defense official told The New York Times in May 2015 that the buildup of Hezbollah’s terror infrastructure in southern Lebanon meant that “civilians are living in a military compound. … We will hit Hezbollah hard, while making every effort to limit civilian casualties as much as we can…[but] we do not intend to stand by helplessly in the face of rocket attacks.”
No doubt Hezbollah will shamelessly exploit images of dead Lebanese civilians and, as expected, certain elements in the political and media arena will blindly swallow the propaganda spoon-fed to them by a terrorist organization. Meanwhile, the United States and Europe will come under pressure to force upon Israel a premature cease-fire.
It is a tactic that has worked for Hezbollah in the past. In 1996 and again in 2006, Hezbollah blackmailed impoverished Shiite families when they offered to rebuild their homes — not out of goodwill, but on condition that they agree to store rocket launchers in their apartments, ready to strike against Israel at any time.
When the time comes for Israel to take preventive military action against Hezbollah, civilians will die. In a perverse twist of reality, Israel will stand accused of violating international law and committing war crimes against the people of Lebanon.
But whatever rewriting of history takes place, it will forever be on record that Israeli officials warned repeatedly that Hezbollah was putting Lebanon’s civilian population at risk and that the international community did nothing to prevent it.
When you sleepwalk into disaster with alarm bells ringing, the moral high ground is no longer yours to claim.
Joshua S. Block is president and CEO of the Israel Project, a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization.