Biden Admin Isn't Sanctioning Hamas for Use of Human Shields, Drawing Bipartisan Ire

Congress calls on Biden to hold terror group accountable

Rep. Mike Gallagher and President Joe Biden (Getty Images)
November 9, 2023

The Biden administration is not enforcing U.S. sanctions on Hamas’s use of human shields, drawing bipartisan concerns in Congress as the Iran-backed terror group uses civilians to shield itself from Israeli military attacks.

As Israel’s war on Hamas enters its second month, it has become increasingly clear the terror group is placing civilians in harm’s way in order to maximize casualties, in violation of a U.S. law barring the use of human shields.

"There still have been no sanctions imposed pursuant to this law" by the Biden administration, according to a bipartisan group of 22 congressmen. The group urges the administration to "prioritize the swift imposition and enforcement of all appropriate sanctions" on Hamas for its ongoing use of human shields in a letter sent to the State and Treasury Departments on Wednesday and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The letter comes on the heels of a bipartisan bill meant to strengthen and expand U.S. sanctions on any terror group that employs human shields in combat. That legislative effort, first reported by the Free Beacon in October, days after Hamas butchered more than 1,400 Israeli citizens, is aimed at increasing pressure on the Biden administration to fully enforce sanctions on Hamas and its Iranian-backed ally Hezbollah in Lebanon. More than a month later, the Biden administration still has not sanctioned the terror groups, even with mounting evidence that Hamas’s use of human shields is a key pillar of its terrorism strategy.

"While the U.S. government has taken measures to combat Hamas and Hezbollah in recent years, it has yet to sanction Hamas and Hezbollah leaders for their use of human shields," the lawmakers wrote in a letter led by Reps. Mike Gallagher (R., Wis.) and Brad Sherman (D., Calif.). "Imposing such sanctions would make clear that the U.S. government does not tolerate the use of human shields and would encourage like-minded countries to take similar measures against this war crime."

The Biden administration, including the president himself, has repeatedly condemned Hamas for intentionally placing civilians in harm’s way by using hospitals and schools as bases for their terrorism operations.

A Hamas "hostage-taking manual recovered by the Israel Defense Forces" during its latest operations revealed that the terror group’s forces "were explicitly given a strategy for taking hostages which directed them to use live hostages seized in Israel as human shields," according to the lawmakers.

Sanctions on Hamas and Hezbollah, the lawmakers say, would send a powerful message to the world that these war crimes will not be tolerated.

"Spotlighting, condemning, and imposing sanctions on specific Hamas officials for their involvement in using human shields would send a message to officials of Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban, the Islamic State, Russia, and other prolific users of human shields that there is now a price to be paid for engaging in this horrific war crime," the lawmakers write.

In 2018, Congress passed the Sanctioning the Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act, legislation that was a response to the use of human shields by terror outfits like Hamas and Hezbollah.

The law required the president to annually submit to Congress a list of all individuals involved in using human shields and impose sanctions on them. The October 2023 version of the bill, which is still being considered by Congress, would strengthen and expand the sanctions, applying more pressure on the Biden administration to actually use them.