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Engel Remarks on Use of Human Shields by Hamas

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WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the leading Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in support of a resolution condemning the use of civilians as human shields by Hamas (H.Con.Res. 107):

“Mr. Speaker, in recent weeks, on our TV screens and computer monitors—in the pages of newspapers and magazines—we’ve seen the bloody and brutal results of war.  We’ve heard the reports of so many lives lost.  And no matter where you come from or what you believe, if you don’t grieve over every innocent killed, you simply don’t have a heart.

“What’s missing from many of these stories, though, is why these blameless men, women, and children ended up in harm’s way.  When Israel acts to defend itself, it does everything it can to warn citizens—civilians—and minimize loss of life.  Israel warns Palestinians ahead of time, going so far as to say specifically where an airstrike is going to occur.

“And what does Hamas do, on the other hand?  It forces Palestinians to stay in their homes.  To stay in the line of fire.  All the while, Hamas leaders cower in their underground tunnels.  Then they have the cynicism to point their cameras at the dead, show the world the outcome of their human shield strategy, and blame Israel.  It’s despicable.  And it’s shameful.

“This resolution sends a clear message: the Palestinian people of Gaza should not have to take this anymore from Hamas. 

“It also makes clear that we support taking away Hamas’s ability to wage terror campaigns.

“As Secretary Kerry said on Tuesday, "any process to resolve the crisis in Gaza in a lasting and meaningful way must lead to the disarmament of Hamas and all terrorist groups." 

“Now is the time for the United States to stand firm in our support of Israel.  Hamas has Qatar and Turkey, shamefully, to support them, and the rest of the world has turned a deaf ear to Israel’s pleas for security. 

“The UN Human Rights Council, which, frankly, is a joke, even voted to investigate Israel for war crimes, with the United States casting the courageous lone dissenting vote.  We know the Human Rights Council typically has a muddled view of Israeli-Palestinian issues.  But given the constant barrage of Hamas rockets—launched from civilian population centers, day in and day out, week in and week out, year in and year out, and falling on Israeli civilian population centers—the Council seems especially out of touch.

“We ought to mention something that’s very important. This war started because Hamas keeps attacking Israel through the years—the Israeli civilian population—through the years with its missiles. Civilians. So for Hamas to now fret over civilian casualties—which is the fault of them, in both Gaza and Israel—really just rings hollow.  If Hamas were so concerned about human casualties, why does it target Israeli civilian populations, and why has it targeted those populations all these years?

“As Israel’s security is threatened and its reputation is smeared—and frankly the media hasn’t been helpful or even-handed; this moral equivalency between a terrorist group and a democratic country trying to protect its citizens is sometimes sickening—but the United States is the only one true friend that Israel has. We must always stand up for Israel’s security.  And we must state plainly that Israel is not alone.

“I want to thank Representative Ros-Lehtinen and Representative Deutch for their leadership on this issue.  They have done very strong work in bringing to light Hamas’s deplorable crimes against the Israeli and Palestinian people.  I also wanted to thank Representative Steve Israel and Representative Tom Cole for sponsoring a similar resolution, which the House passed just a few weeks ago.

“And I want to thank Chairman Royce who has worked diligently and hard to bring consensus to our committee and so we can speak with one voice to let the Israeli people know that when it comes to support of Israel, support is strong and it’s bipartisan from this Congress, and that’s the way it should be.

“So only when the world rejects Hamas and its tactics—when Hamas can no longer rain terrorist rockets at Israel and send the Palestinian people to their deaths—will peace between Israelis and Palestinians be possible.

“Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this resolution, and I reserve the balance of my time.”

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