Flash Mob Shield

An interesting use of swarming:

Palestinians form human shield in Gaza City

Hundreds of Palestinians formed a human shield around the home of a militant in the northern Gaza Strip to prevent an Israeli airstrike on the building, residents said. People flocked to the home of Mohammedweil Baroud after he received a warning from the army late yesterday giving him 30 minutes to leave the house. Barhoud is a commander in the Popular Resistance Committees in the northern town of Beit Lahiya who is charge of firing homemade rockets at Israel. Crowds of people stood on the rooftop and in the yard of the home.

Human shields are nothing new. But with today’s communications technology, flash mobbing potential targets may very well be a new way to stop air strikes or raids. The question is whether other groups will pick up on this and whether Palestinians see the opportunity here. At least it requires a certain amount of infrastructure which we won’t see as easily in Afghanistan though in Iraq and Pakistan its not unthinkable.

About Chirol

Sir Ignatius Valentine Chirol (1852 - 1929) was a journalist, prolific author, world historian, and British diplomat. He began his career as a foreign correspondent and later became editor of the London Times. After two decades as a journalist he joined Her Majesty's Foreign Ministry as a diplomat and was subsequently knighted for his distinguished service as a foreign affairs advisor. Additionally, he wrote a dozen books on foreign affairs including The Far Eastern Question (1896), Serbia and the Serbs (1914), The End of the Ottoman Empire (1920) and The Egyptian Problem (1921). He is generally credited with popularizing "Middle East" in reference to the Arabian Peninsula with his book The Middle Eastern Question (1903). "Chirol" is a US citizen and graduate student studying Defense and Strategic Studies and government contractor. As with the historical Chirol, he has traveled to over two dozen countries and lived abroad for many years. Chirol speaks English and German fluently with basic knowledge of manyl of others.
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19 Responses to Flash Mob Shield

  1. subadei says:

    The tactic might lose it’s appeal after the Israelis pound a shack into dust without regard to the people standing around or upon it.

  2. Younghusband says:

    But considering the success of Intifada 1, which used similar techniques in that it put unarmed civvies against armed soldiers, I think this is smart of them. But one or two “malfunctioning” smart bombs might be the best way to deal with this.

  3. MikeS says:

    This will only work on targets of limited value. Considering that the people who make up the human shield are well aware of what they are doing, it terms of the rules of war they are no longer considered “innocent” and their death becomes acceptable collateral damage. I think it would mostly depend upon the nature of the political leadership in Israel. The Olmert government seems to accept these sorts of underhanded tactics.

  4. Pavlov3 says:

    They recently successfully mobbed a Mosque with women, allowing militants to escape. Sad as it is, those people became combantants, and while I would urge as much restraint as possible, bomb the building.

  5. Hi Chirol,

    This was merely presure tactics by the Israelis to inconvenience the guy in charge of lobbing rockets into Israel by blowing up all of his stuff, forcing him to spend time dealing with mundane difficulties of finding housing and replacing goods and warning him of worse to follow.

    If this militant was regarded as a truly big fish the IDF would have iced him without a warning like the did to Sheik Yassin and several other HAMAS leaders. You can’t swarm what you don’t know is coming.

  6. subadei says:

    I agree with both Mike and Mark. The Israelis would simply plant the “combatant” tag on the individuals “shielding” the house and bomb it anyway.
    Furthermore, if the IDF Brass (or Mossad) wanted this guy dead the only warning he’d have recieved would be the rumble of a hellfire missile.

  7. arherring says:

    As has been said here earlier if he was wanted bad enough they would have taken him without warning.

    On the other hand, perhaps the ability to create these flash-mobs might be valuable to creating a campaign of disruption. The participants may not even be aware of what they are doing if they are given another reason for their activity. Sort of like bank robbers throwing money out of the car window to stop the police from chasing them. The mob isn’t helping the robbers escape they just see $20 bills blowing across the street.

  8. “…rumble of a hellfire missile.” In the terminal phase at least it is supersonic.

    He’d never hear anything.

    The Israelis should announce four or five targets a day every day until the mobs get bored and stop showing up.

  9. subadei says:

    LOL. I’ll amend that to “the whup-whup of an Apache.”

  10. Younghusband says:

    Lex, that is a good idea.

    As far as the Olmert government sending in a missile even if there were shields, I am not so sure he would. The Army maybe. But Olmert’s foray into Lebanon was a show of strength play that backfired. Would he second guess blowing up a bunch of civilian combatants?

  11. subadei says:

    Younghusband, bear in mind the political atmosphere within Israel. The absolute “backfire”:http://www.dailystar.com.lb/home3.asp in Lebanon has, “domestically”:http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,209519,00.html, put Olmerts feet to the fire. Taking a hard line in Gaza could be a viable political strategy and might hold off the Hawks; B. Netenyahu and the Likud party.

  12. ElamBend says:

    The court of world opinion would never see them as combatants, for instance the two women killed in the last flash mob; thus it increases the cost of a target on Israel. They have to really want it.

    Lex has a great idea in misdirection; plus I think Israel will abandon the idea of giving 30 minute warnings to militants who houses are about to be destroyed.

  13. Chirol says:

    I agree with YH. Lebanon showed that Israel can’t underestimate intl pressure. Taking out a big group of civilians, although we all clearly agree they become combatants, would be a mistake.

  14. StrategyUnit says:


    Hey its StrategyUnit, I havnt been active in 2-3 months, but I’m attempting to get back into things.

    I did a “quick post on the subject”:http://strategyunit.blogsome.com/2006/11/21/the-human-swarm-and-the-end-of-conventional-warfare/ and what it boils down to is this:

    “How can a modern military, a military that aims to upholds the Geneva Convention under tight media scrutiny, respond to such tactics?

    Easy Answer: They Can’t. They have to find something else to target.

    What happens when more and more groups/states start following suit when risking military strikes by a Western Power? How will the West balance its normative values with the bluring definition and position of the military and civilian space?”

    I think that applies to the discussions going on here. I dont think there are any easy answers to be found here.

  15. von Kaufman-Turkestansky says:

    Mike S: “the rules of war” – what used to be the rules of war, you mean. After a strike like the one envisioned in this post, that would kill civilians who had moved to protect someone by becoming a human shield, all the talking heads you want could go on CNN and Fox News and say “well, they technically became combatants”. That might (or might not) help avert a scandal across the Atlantic, but the damage that could be done to those making the strikes would likely be long-lasting.

    SU: Bingo. No easy answers. The answer I don’t like, but the one that seems most likely, is that “the West” will start, driven by geopolitical imperatives, to behave in ways that will seem to many now as odious but will come to be gradually more accepted.

  16. MikeS says:

    “. . . what used to be the rules of war, you mean.”

    No, I mean the actual accepted rules of war. If a civillian participates in combat, by loading an artillery piece for example or hiding a solider with their body, they are engaging in an act of war and stop being civilians but become instead combatants.

    These tactics by Hamas are not new, they are as old as warfare itself. The only reason they work now and they didn’t work against the Mongolians when they invaded the region is that the post-modern West has political leaders who are unwilling to engage in a real, bloody war, the kind that produces victory and casualties.

    When civillians engage in this behavior they are no longer civillians. If the EU wets their pants over it, so what?

  17. Alex says:

    Afghanistan could see flashmobs – there are already 2 GSM networks.

  18. von Kaufman-Turkestansky says:

    Mike S: QED.

  19. gacetillero says:

    I think the misdirection angle has a lot going for it.

    I think we’re going to see the rehabilitation, though, of tactics that the Russians have proven to be rather good at of late. If you want to be sure that you’re going to take out the target without collateral damage, what smarter weapon could you find than a clandestine assassin?