The Molotov thrower is surrounded by children and there is nothing I can do
During Passover 2017, because of the peak in visitors at the Rachel’s Tomb site in Beit Lehem, my platoon was sent to reinforce a local outpost and was constantly called out to deal with riots. The violent protests had a fixed ritual. We would be leaving the outpost and in front of us were waiting 1,000-2,000 people, with little children situated in the front as a buffer, acting as a human shield.
The children were elementary schoolers, around the age of 10-11, the same as my younger siblings. As soon as the gate was to open we would receive a barrage of stones and Molotov Cocktails which we avoided by taking cover behind the protective concrete blocks that were situated there for that purpose. Afterwards, we would start closing on the main instigator using our observation outpost or drowns.
Everybody knew that the main instigator was that person wearing the Keffiyeh who always stands next to the same specific store and is visibly surrounded by children. The instigator used to stand with a bullhorn, shouting and inciting the protestors. At the same time, every person who wanted to perform a more violent attack, such as throwing a Molotov Cocktail, prepared the bottle at the back and then started moving forward to commit the attack after surrounding himself with children, knowing we would not hurt him. It used to give me the creeps.
I recall one event in particularly. I was situated in a pillbox (a tall armored observation post) and my duty was to observe and support cover for the rest of the platoon dealing with the riot down below. I noticed one person organizing many bottles in a box next to him. Suddenly, he lit up the bottles and started throwing them at our troops. My commanding officer asked me if I see the person who is throwing the Molotovs, and I answered that I did. When he asked me immediately why I am not opening fire at him I answered that the Molotov thrower is surrounded by children and there is nothing I can do, it was not possible to hit the thrower without risking the children.
This situation was particularly hard for me. I enlisted after Operation Protective Edge and we were constantly busy in taking care of the our children, and make sure they reach a shelter during a missile attack alarm. It hurt me on the personal level to think about my younger siblings at home running for shelters, when on the other side, the Palestinians take their own children away from shelter and cynically use them on the front line as human shields.