Jump to content
Clubplanet Nightlife Community

Use of Palestinian Civilians as Human Shields


Recommended Posts

Human shield - Use of Palestinian civilians as human shields in violation of High Court order

In its new report, B'Tselem exposes a list of incidents in which the IDF violated a High Court of Justice injunction by using Palestinians as human shields (as part of the "neighbor procedure"). The report reveals for the first time that IDF soldiers also used Palestinian civilians in the action that led to the killing of Iyad Sawalha in Jenin last Saturday.

The commander pulled me back and said: "We want you to go inside, call Iyad and tell him that he's better off coming out, because if he doesn't, we'll destroy his house and the houses nearby." I walked two or three meters past the wall and asked the commander what to say and who to call. I spoke out loud deliberately, because I wanted to make sure that whoever was in the alcove would not shoot me. I walked in and stood at the opening of the alcove. It was dark and I couldn't see inside. One of the soldiers was standing by the ruined wall pointing his gun at me. I called out to Iyad.

From the testimony of Khaled Kamil, 11 November 2002

On 18 August 2002, following a petition filed by human rights organizations, the High Court issued a temporary injunction prohibiting IDF forces from using the "neighbor procedure." The injunction remains in force. B'Tselem's report describes several cases in which the IDF used the "neighbor procedure" after the High Court issued the injunction.

In the report's conclusions, B'Tselem urges the IDF to order its soldiers not to demand civilians to perform military assignments. The order given to soldiers must be unambiguous. B'Tselem also demands that the IDF immediately investigate all the cases appearing in the report and initiate proceedings against all soldiers involved in this forbidden practice.


Source: Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

Date: 14 Nov 2002


During the al-Aqsa intifada, IDF soldiers have used Palestinian civilians as human shields. This practice was most common during IDF operations in Palestinian population centers, such as Operation Defensive Shield and Operation Determined Path.

The method is the same each time: soldiers pick a civilian at random and force him to do dangerous tasks that put their lives at risk. For example, soldiers have ordered Palestinians to:

enter buildings to check if they are booby-trapped, or to remove the occupants

remove suspicious objects from roads used by the army

stand inside houses where soldiers have set up military positions, so that Palestinians will not fire at the soldiers

walk in front of soldiers to shield them from gunfire, while the soldiers hold a gun behind their backs and sometimes fire over their shoulders.

The soldiers in the field are not the ones who initiated this practice; the use of human shields is an integral part of the orders they receive. Sergeant Nati Aharoni told the IDF magazine B'Mahaneh how he and other soldiers entered a building:

We had previously seized this building, so we were concerned that explosives would be waiting for us when we came back. Acting according to customary practice in such cases, we took a Palestinian who lived nearby and had him comb the site. He opened all the doors and cabinets, and didn't find anything. We shook his hand and said thanks. Then we went inside.1

Soldiers who have given testimonies to B'Tselem confirmed the existence of this policy. A soldier who served in the Bethlehem area during Operation Defensive Shield told B'Tselem:

Before searching a house, we go to a neighbor, take him out of his house and tell him to call the person we want. If it works, great. If not, we blow down the door or hammer it open. The neighbor goes in first. If somebody is planning something, he is the one who gets it. Our instructions are to send him in and get everybody out - put the women and children in one room, handcuff the men and take them into another room. We take their ID cards and then go through the whole house with the neighbor to find the person we are looking for and take him.

In the case of a wanted person, we comb the place thoroughly. We take the person that the Shabak wants and release the others. The neighbor can't refuse. He doesn't have that option. The neighbor shouts, knocks on the door, says that the army is here. If nobody answers, we tell him that we'll kill him if nobody comes out, and that he should shout that out to the people in the house. The briefings we received [about this procedure] were from the company commander or platoon commander. The basic procedure was the same no matter who gave the briefing. Maybe the "we'll kill him," came from the company, but the rest came from the brigade level or higher. The neighbor goes onto the roof and tells everybody to get out. Then we go with him to make sure that no one else is still there.2

Another soldier described how his unit entered Palestinian houses:

After combing the house, we would take over the top floor and kept the occupants on the bottom floor. We did not let them leave, because keeping them in the house reduced the likelihood that Palestinians would try to blow-up the house or fire at us. We also used Palestinians to check suspicious objects on the roads or in houses in which we expected that Palestinians would fire at us. In my opinion, a Palestinian who is asked to do these kind of tasks could refuse without anything happening to him, but if he did, we would immediately suspect that he knows something about actions being taken against us.3

In April 2002, the international human rights organization Human Rights Watch published a report on the IDF's use of Palestinian civilians as human shields. Following publication of the report and the many testimonies received by Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations about the use of human shields, seven human rights organizations petitioned the High Court of Justice to end this practice.4

Two days after the petition was filed, the state informed the High Court that, ". . .the IDF has decided to issue immediately an unequivocal order to the forces in the field. The order states that forces in the field are absolutely forbidden to use any civilians as a means of "living shield" against gunfire or attacks by the Palestinian side."5 However, the state argued that ordering Palestinians to direct other Palestinians to leave their house does not constitute using them as human shields:

It should be noted that some of the complaints set forth in the petition do not result from the use of persons as "human shields." Rather, these Palestinian residents assist IDF forces in gaining entry to houses of other Palestinian residents during the military operations. In light of the complaints set forth in the petition, the IDF decided to clarify that even this act is forbidden in situations in which the commander in the field believes that a civilian is liable to be injured.

The change in policy was implemented almost completely. Subsequent reports received by B'Tselem dealt mostly with the use of Palestinians to arrest other Palestinians or to order them to leave their houses. However, the use of this procedure, referred to as "the neighbor procedure," is not significantly different from other ways in which the IDF used civilians as human shields. It, too, constitutes an illegal use of civilians for military purposes and is no less dangerous for the civilians in question. The fact that the "neighbor procedure" is equally dangerous to other uses of civilians was clearly demonstrated by an incident that occurred in August 2002. On 8 August, soldiers sent Nidal Abu Mukhsan, a nineteen-year-old resident of Tubas, to the house of Nasser Jarar, a Hamas activist, and ordered him to get Jarar to leave his house. When Abu Mukhsan approached the house, Jarar, apparently thinking that the person coming toward him was a soldier, shot Abu Mukhsan.

B'Tselem wrote to the IDF Spokesperson regarding this incident. In response, the IDF Spokesperson's office confirmed the facts of the case and justified the use of civilians in arresting Palestinians:

The IDF regrets the harm caused to the local resident during the action, and notes that the individual was killed by terrorist gunfire. IDF soldiers did not go into the building with him, so there are no grounds for contending that this was a case of using a "human shield." The soldiers remained outside so that the Palestinian resident would warn the wanted person alone, without endangering himself. This was done on the assumption that the terrorist would not open fire at a Palestinian who entered by himself. We wish to emphasize that the action in the town was initiated against a murderous terrorist who was directly responsible for dozens of attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers, and that the IDF opposes harming innocent people.6

Following this incident, the seven human rights organizations went back to court and demanded that a temporary injunction be issued forbidding the IDF's use of the "neighbor procedure".7 That same day, the High Court granted the application and directed the state to respond. The state has not yet responded, and the temporary injunction remains in effect.

After the High Court prohibited the use of Palestinians in the "neighbor procedure," there was a marked decrease in the number of cases in which soldiers used the procedure. However, B'Tselem documented at least five incidents in which soldiers used Palestinians as human shields in violation of the temporary injunction. The cases documented by B'Tselem do not necessarily represent all the incidents in which the interim injunction was violated.

Click here for the full report (pdf* format)


1 B'Mahaneh, 12 April 2002.

2 The testimony was given to Eyal Raz and Ron Dudai on 6 May 2002. The name of the witness is on file at B'Tselem.

3 The testimony was given to Eyal Raz and Ronen Schnayderman on 22 May 2002. The name of the witness is on file at B'Tselem.

4 HCJ 3799/02, Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel et al v. Yitzhak Eitan, OC Central Command et al. Attorney Marwan Dalal, of Adalah, filed the petition on behalf of the seven human rights organizations: Adalah, the Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel; Law - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment; Physicians for Human Rights; HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual; the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel; and B'Tselem.

5 HCJ 3799/02, response of the respondent to the application for a temporary injunction, 7 May 2002.

6 Letter from Captain Henrietta Levy, head of Public Assistance Branch, IDF Spokesperson's office, 20 August 2002.

7 HCJ 3799/02, Application for Temporary Injunction, 18 August 2002.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...