Sept. 7, 2005 – In direct violation of both domestic and international law, the Israeli military continues to use Palestinian civilians as human shields to protect soldiers during military operations in the occupied Palestinian territories, according to a report in the Israeli daily Haâ€™aretz.
Last week, heavily armed Israeli forces broke into the home of Mahmoud Rajabi in the southern West Bank city of Hebron. According to witnesses, the soldiers used three brothers as human shields during the 48-hour operation, in which the home was evacuated of the remaining thirteen family members and used as a military post.
The commander of the Israeli army (IDF) unit involved told Haâ€™aretz that using Palestinians to protect armed soldiers was a normal procedure implemented to protect his soldiersâ€™ lives.
"Iâ€™m ready to do anything to protect my soldiers," the IDF commander, identified only as Liron, said. "What would happen if while I left the building my deputy was attacked with stones or a bomb?"
Israelâ€™s High Court ordered a temporary injunction outlawing the use of human shields in 2002 after seven human rights groups filed suit following the death of a Palestinian teenager killed when IDF soldiers forced him to knock on the door of a suspected militant and order him to surrender â€“ a practice the IDF calls the "neighbor procedure." Nasser Jarrar, the suspect, reportedly shot 19-year-old Nidal Abu Mukhsan after he knocked on the door to deliver the order.
The essence of the injunction against the use of human shields remains in effect.
Jessica Montell, director of the Israeli human rights group Bâ€™Tselem, one of the seven groups involved in the 2002 suit, said her group began monitoring the use of human shields in 2002 after collecting testimonies from Palestinians. "We initially thought [the testimonies] were not credible, given that they were so shocking: physically using people as shields, forcing them to walk in front of soldiers, even resting a rifle on their shoulder, hiding behind them when going into houses," Montell said.
According to Bâ€™Tselem, "The soldiers in the field did not initiate this practice; rather, the order to use civilians as a means of protection was made by senior army officials."
Human Rights Watch said the so-called neighbor procedure "violated the fundamental international humanitarian law principle of civilian immunity, violated multiple provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and recklessly exposed civilians to danger."
In April 2004, the Israeli army was caught on film after they tied a 13-year-old Palestinian boy, Mohammed Bedwan, to the front of a border police jeep in an effort to prevent Palestinian demonstrators from throwing stones during a protest against the construction of the separation barrier in the West Bank village of Biddu. Three adult protestors, including one international and one Israeli activist, were also tied to jeeps during the same protest.