Hamas encourages young children, some of them aged no more than 10, to take part in riots on the Gaza border fence—using them as glorified human shields with the knowledge that the IDF will refrain from shooting at them, the Israeli army has said.
In a demonstration last Friday on the Gaza border, four Palestinians were killed, including 15-year-old Mohammed Ibrahim Ayoub, who ran toward the fence and was shot by a sniper. Ayoub's death was captured by a photographer who was at the scene and drew severe condemnation.
In the video, the boy ran between people near the fence, but did not touch it, when he was suddenly shot in the head. The video became viral on social media and caused serious damage to Israel's image, with many accusing the IDF of purposefully killing children.
According to military sources, there was a drop in the number of participants in the last Friday demonstrations on the Gaza Strip border, which were called the "March of Return", but on the other hand they became much more violent and involved more women and children.
"The children are sent to the front to face the (IDF) snipers," a senior IDF official said. "And under the cover of the smoke, they throw Molotov cocktails or sabotage the (security) fence, out of an understanding that we will not hurt them."
According to the IDF, a sniper in the Israeli army is given authorization to shoot only from an officer at the level of a battalion commander or above. In such a case, they are permitted to open fire on a “central instigator,” aiming at his ankle or below his knee. Full data on each sniper fire is recorded in real time via the rifle's telescopic sights lens.
The official stressed that the sniper directive is clear.
"There is no permit to fire at all at children, women or journalists," he made clear. "It is permitted to fire at primary instigators, but only at the lower parts of their body and only after approval is obtained. There is no IDF commander who will order shooting at children."
The source added that the IDF is now reviewing all the footage in order to learn what happened at last Friday's demonstration, and that it may eventually turn out to be a case of mistaken identity.
"One has to understand what situation we are operating in," he said. "That we face a terrorist organization that sends children at us."
Other senior military officials echoed the source's assertions.