(December 11, 2018 / JNS) The House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill on Monday that would enact sanctions on those who use human shields in war.
The Senate unanimously passed its version, co-introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in October. The bill now goes to U.S. President Donald Trump to sign it into law.
Introduced by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), and co-sponsored by 25 representatives, the Sanctioning the Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act, also known as the STOP Using Human Shields Act, officially condemns the U.S.-designated terrorist group Hezbollah’s use of human shields “as a gross violation of internationally recognized human rights.”
The bill mandates that the president impose sanctions on any entity that “knowingly and materially supports, orders, controls, directs or otherwise engages in” the exercise of human shields by the terrorist organizations Hezbollah and Hamas.
The president may waive sanctions for up to 120 days if he or she reports to Congress saying that a waiver is crucial to national-security interests.
“I am proud to have worked alongside my colleagues in Congress to hold groups that use human shields accountable, including Iran-backed groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and the Houthis” Cruz said in a statement.
“The international community has failed to hold these groups accountable, and last week the United Nations refused to pass a nonbinding resolution condemning Hamas,” he added. “The United States is sending a message that it will not turn a blind eye to terrorist war crimes the way the United Nations does, that those who use civilians as human shields are the ones responsible for endangering civilians, and that they will be held accountable.”
Groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Christians United for Israel, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) applauded the bill’s passage.
“This is the first time Congress has taken legislative action against this heinous practice,” AIPAC said in a statement.
“The importance of this legislation is underscored by the recent discovery of Hezbollah terror tunnels into Israel that originated under the cover of civilian houses in Lebanon,” they added. “And just weeks ago—using the cover of civilian populations in Gaza—Hamas fired [nearly] 500 rockets at communities across southern Israel.”
Congress just passed important #bipartisan legislation to target Hamas and Hezbollah’s use of human shields.
— AIPAC (@AIPAC) December 11, 2018
“Those who use human shields are the worst kind of cowards. The practitioners of this monstrous practice hide behind the skirts of women and the bodies of children in order to attack neighboring innocent civilians,” said CUFI founder and chairman Pastor John Hagee. “The 5 million members of CUFI welcome the House’s actions today, and we look forward to the President signing this legislation into law.”
“There is nothing more cowardly and more craven then hiding behind defenseless women and children, while waging acts of war, a practice that is commonplace among the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah,” EMET founder and president Sarah Stern told JNS. “As the bill states, Hezbollah has built up an arsenal of 150,000 rockets, which are often concealed in Shi’ite villages and homes in Southern Lebanon, frequently within homes, schools, hospitals and mosques.”
“Terrorists and their sponsoring regimes must be held accountable for their brutal practice of using civilians as human shields,” FDD CEO Mark Dubowitz told JNS. “This bipartisan action will save civilian lives, and give the United States and its allies the freedom to fight without both hands tied behind their backs.”