Hamas has been using children in “combat support” roles in Gaza – carrying messages and ammunition for example. Whale Oil has heavily criticised this.
However, although I am certainly not one to support Hamas, this particular issue is not that clear-cut. Children have been used in such roles in Western countries too.
Robert Baden-Powell was the British officer in charge at the siege of Mafeking, in the Second Boer War (1899). He was short of men, so the Mafeking Cadet Corps, a group of boys from the age of 11, served in a combat support role. Their duties included carrying messages, helping in the hospital, and acting as lookouts.
Baden-Powell was very impressed with their work, and eventually formed the Boy Scouts based on this. The Boy Scouts was originally formed along military lines, and was important in preparing boys for military service in the two World Wars.
The Hamas children are doing the same sorts of duties as the Mafeking Cadet Corps – the main difference being that the MCC had uniforms and the Hamas children are apparantly in civilian clothes. Although I strongly disagree with Hamas, and certainly disagree with them encouraging children to be suicide bombers and using them as human shields, it would be hypocritical for me to criticise their use of children in combat support roles while agreeing with the Mafeking Cadet Corps and the Scouting movement. Most people will get their children to help out with whatever they are doing, whether what they are doing is right or wrong, and Hamas is no exception.
So I will criticise what Hamas is doing, but not the fact that their children are helping them do it.
Hat tip: My wife, who brought Baden-Powell and child military service to my attention.