Palestine Monitor
6 July 2010

Idf Face New War Crimes Allegations: Children As Human Shields

A new report issued today by human rights groups in Israel accuses the army of using human shields during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza last January. The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and Adalah have collected affidavits which reveal systemic, illegal practises.

The use of human shields is a war crime under the Geneva convention. In 2005, the Israeli High Court outlawed such tactics. Rights groups have accused the IDF of using them in 2006 and 2009 operations in Gaza, which prompted investigations which led to one case of criminal proceedings. In March the army indicted two soldiers on charges of endangering a nine-year old boys life, forcing him to open bags they suspected to be booby trapped.

Today’s report, addressing the wider topic of prisoner abuse, examined individual cases of Palestinians being used as human shields. Rami Abed Rabbo was one victim, claiming he was handcuffed, blindfolded and held at gunpoint before being forced to enter suspect houses. He gave this assessment of army practises: “After we tell them there was no one inside the house, they would then release dogs and then the soldiers entered after that. They were moving us from house to house, in which the same process continued." Such an approach is corroborated by several similar testimonies, as well as a previous BT’selem report.

The PCATI were cagey on describing the practises as endemic, a caution engendered by the Israeli governments recent attacks on civil rights groups. A bill is currently awaiting ratification in the Knesset that would strip such groups of their tax-exempt status if they are receiving foreign donations. Practically all such groups are supported by such sources, though not to the same extent that far-right settlers groups are supported by American donors.

A senior PCATI source told us “we want an external investigation. We have submitted concrete personal complaints and a general complaint. They have not given us a real answer and we do not expect them to. We have had many bad experiences when they investigate themselves.” The source confirmed that children under 18 had been used as shields, according to sworn testimony, but could not confirm whether any had been injured in the process.

The army response accused the PCATI of “rehashing allegations that have been dismissed”, adding that several individual cases remain under investigation.