A recent report revealed a chilling tactic by Palestinian terrorist organizations: recruiting teenage girls as spotters for terrorists during their operations against the IDF. Even more chilling is a report that over 60,000 Palestinian children are being trained every year to participate in combat.
The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a neoconservative think tank specializing in public diplomacy and foreign policy, released a report citing Palestinian sources as claiming they are using children, including young girls, as spotters against the IDF.
Middle East analyst Jonathan Halevi reported that on April 10, 2022, the Jenin Al-Qassam Telegram channel serving armed Palestinian groups in the Jenin region, published instructions for mujahideen (Jihad fighters) that deal with the use of children “to conduct visual observation and information gathering.” The Telegram channel also noted that Jenin has a network of observation units staffed by “young people” assisting terrorist groups by “documenting on video and delivering reports about the activities of IDF forces.”
Below is the translation of the guidelines document (originally in Arabic):
To our brothers and the crown of our head, the jihad fighters all over the Jenin district, the city, the village, and the [refugee] camp that stand firm. You must know that nowadays, you are the tip of our spear and sail, and thanks to you, there is hope in us after [our trust in] Allah. From this, we hope, in our eyes, that you stay vigilant and cautious, gain experience and learn from it since there are no more evident conclusions and lessons than those engraved in the blood that was shed, and therefore [you must]:
- Stay away from phones and social media and find other means of communication [emphasis added]
- Divide roles and avoid gathering together
- Do not shoot without cover
- Do not move without cover
- Be alert for [IDF] snipers
- Don’t be drawn into the deceptions of the enemy who wants to take you out [of your hiding place] so that you will be a target for snipers
- Use children and residents to observe and gather information
- Prepare ambushes
On March 7, 2022, the channel noted, “We have couriers and observation units, and we see everything. So calm down and don’t spread rumors.”
On February 18, 2022, Jenin al-Qassam published the following instructions for the young Palestinians [spotters] who are assigned to observe the activities of the IDF forces in the Jenin area: “Young people, do not take your eyes off the [Israeli] Dotan checkpoint. There are special observation units to monitor Dotan, and the checkpoint is subject to 24-hour observation. We will keep you informed of any new [development]. Monitor [the checkpoints] al-Salam and al-Jalameh. May Allah protect them all.”
Nada AlTaher, a senior foreign reporter at The National and previously a freelancer with CNN International, posted a video on Twitter last month claiming that 15-year-old Sadil Naghnaghia was filming IDF troops when she was shot.
A similar story concerns the death of 16-year-old Jana Zakarna, who was killed by IDF gunfire in Jenin on December 12. Palestinian spokespersons claim she was on the roof looking for Lulu, her cat, and Israel was denounced by the US State Department and roasted in the foreign media after the IDF accepted the blame.
“Following an initial inquiry, it was determined that the girl who was killed was hit by unintentional fire aimed at armed gunmen on a roof in the area from which the force was fired upon,” the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) statement said.
But her last video, taken from the roof of her apartment building after 10 PM on the night she was killed, focused on IDF vehicles operating on the street below.
In conventional armies, a spotter acts as part of a sniper team, observing the targets and their surroundings. In asymmetrical warfare and terrorist organizations, spotters serve a similar purpose however the team may be setting off an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).
While the status of non-combatants acting as spotters poses a moral dilemma, the U.S. Department of Defense’s “Law on War Manual” (updated in July 2023) states explicitly that civilians “providing or relaying information of immediate use in combat operations” and acting as a guide or lookout for combatants conducting military operations” may be targeted. The phenomenon of minors being used by Palestinian terrorist groups as spotters may grow. A report in Algemeiner stated that this year alone, some 65,000 Palestinian children attended “summer camps” that included combat training and anti-Israel indoctrination. These children may soon be used in combat roles.