Congress has the chance to combat terrorist use of human shields
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Innocent civilian casualties are an inevitable legacy of any war. But the idea that armies would use civilians as human shields to protect armed combatants from the enemy’s bullets is considered by most civilized nations and adherents to International Law (1949 Geneva Conventions, the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, and the 1998 Rome Statute) to be a War Crime.

During World War II, across Europe and in Asia, the Axis partners were accused of deploying human shields to secure military objectives, root out insurgents and in the Battle of Okinawa, use civilians in a ferocious battle the Japanese knew they would lose. Over 100,000 Okinawans perished.

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Saddam Hussein took the deployment of human shields to a whole new level. In the lead up to the Gulf War of 1990-1991. Hussein detained hundreds of citizens of Western countries as human shields in an attempt to deter nations from launching military strikes. A number of these hostages were filmed meeting Hussein, and kept with him to deter any targeted attacks, whilst others were held in or near military, nuclear and industrial targets.

More recently, in 2016, Islamic State fighters began using human shields -- hostages -- in Fallujah. Fox News reported that the shields consisted of “several hundred” families -- in other words, an entire neighborhood. USA Today reported that Islamic State thugs were "locking some families down inside the hospital building." The Iraqi government and the UN also estimated at least 50,000 innocent people were trapped in Fallujah.

Which brings us to the new Capitol Hill initiative. Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzProtesters confront Cruz at airport over Kavanaugh vote O'Rourke targets Cruz with several attack ads a day after debate Election Countdown: O'Rourke goes on the attack | Takeaways from fiery second Texas Senate debate | Heitkamp apologizes for ad misidentifying abuse victims | Trump Jr. to rally for Manchin challenger | Rick Scott leaves trail to deal with hurricane damage MORE (R-Texas) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyPoll: Dem Donnelly has 4-point lead in Indiana Senate race Election Countdown: O'Rourke goes on the attack | Takeaways from fiery second Texas Senate debate | Heitkamp apologizes for ad misidentifying abuse victims | Trump Jr. to rally for Manchin challenger | Rick Scott leaves trail to deal with hurricane damage Credit union group to spend .8 million for vulnerable Dem, GOP incumbents MORE (D-Ind.) have introduced an increasingly rare bipartisan bill to counter the use of human shields by Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Nigeria’s Boko Haram and other terrorist groups.

Why the need for the bill now? What can it achieve?

Most of the examples of cited above about the use of human shields in the past took place in the heat of battle or as a desperation move on the eve of a military confrontation.

In our time, we are confronted with Iranian-backed terrorist groups who brazenly have established the deployment of human shields as a core tactic and strategy for present and future battles with the enemy. For months now, Hamas has been using children as part of orchestrated riots at the Gaza-Israeli border. When Israel soldiers rush to the area and see children, their first reaction is to hesitate targeting children. These traps have already cost the lives of an Israeli soldier.

Rather than condemn Hamas, as outgoing US Ambassador to the UN Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyTrump mulling State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert for UN envoy: report Iran says it killed 'mastermind' behind military parade attack Haley slams China over 'internment of civilians' in first public remarks since announcing resignation MORE tried unsuccessfully at the Security Council and General Assembly tried to do, UN members always vote to condemn Israel for defending herself. This only encourages Hamas to put more children at risk. Every dead child is a social media bonanza.

In early wars with Israel, Hamas used civilian infrastructures, including UNRWA schools to store missiles and launch them against the Jewish State. While using children as cannon fodder, the Hamas brain-trust found safe haven beneath a civilian hospital. Palestinian children have died building terror tunnels burrowing into Israeli communities.

As for coming battle with the Jewish state, many students from UNRWA schools used their summer vacation training with live ammunition so they can maximize Israeli dead before their inevitable martyrdom.

If anything, the situation in Southern Lebanon is even more serious.

Hezbollah has over 100,000 rockets and other military installations honeycombing the southern part of the country. It is all deployed in civilian areas. The game plan is to decimate Northern Israel while maximizing civilian casualties among Lebanese civilians. The UN resolutions condemning Israeli defensive measures on both borders are already written. All that is needed are the streaming videos of innocent civilians.

Any bill that would bring some exposure and accountability to this 21st century barbarism is welcomed news. Perhaps it will force the UN to finally take action to forestall the coming humanitarian disasters or at least recognize the guilty parties.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center welcomes the growing support for the Cruz-Donnelly bill among both Democrats and Republicans. That alone send a powerful message that the American people stand with Israel, Nigeria and all other nations targeted by evil doers who seek to leverage our fundamental human values to destroy us.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Director of Global Social Action.