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Analysis: Israel’s double standard on the use of human shields

zionist merkava tank

An Israeli soldier walks past a Merkava tank after returning from the Gaza Strip during the 2014 war in the Palestinian enclave

By Ben White

Despite the fact that Israeli officials repeatedly alleged that Palestinian factions used human shields as a matter of policy in summer 2014, there is little to no evidence that the crime of human shields, as defined under international law, was committed by Hamas or other groups. Even if human shields were used, this would not have absolved Israel from responsibility for obeying the law. There is evidence that sufficient precaution was not taken with regards to launching attacks in close proximity to non-combatants — though even the Israeli army itself only claims that 18 percent of rockets were fired “from civilian facilities.” Thus, given Israeli propaganda’s reliance on this trope, the paucity of evidence for Palestinians using human shields is striking.Meanwhile, however, there is reliable, copious documentation of Israeli forces using human shields over many years. As summarized by Israeli NGO B’Tselem, during the Second Intifada, which began in September 2000, “the Israeli military used Palestinian civilians as human shields” as the “implementation of a decision made by senior military authorities.” According to officials, by the time that Israel’s Supreme Court declared the policy unlawful in 2005, the Israeli army had made use of human shield procedures on 1,200 occasions over the preceding five years.Yet despite the court ruling, there have been numerous documented examples of the practice persisting. In November 2006, Israeli soldiers used a Palestinian man as a human shield during a military operation in Bethlehem. In 2007, B’Tselem documented 14 instances of the use of human shields — including two children in Nablus. In October 2007, the now deputy head of the Israeli military, Yair Golan, was subjected to a mere ‘rebuke’ for ordering soldiers to use human shields. (When two soldiers were convicted of using a Palestinian child as a human shield during ‘Operation Cast Lead’, they weresentenced to a three-month suspended sentence and demoted.)This kind of impunity was condemned by the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child in June 2013, citing 14 cases of “Palestinian children” being used as “human shields and informants” from January 2010 to end of March 2013. Yet despite international opprobrium, the examples have continued: in April 2013, Israeli soldiers used a handcuffed Palestinian teenager as a human shield while firing on protesters in the West Bank, while in July 2014, soldiers “force[d] a family member to escort them” during a house raid in Hebron.Indeed, all of the charges made by Israeli spokespersons against Palestinian factions — with little or no supporting evidence beyond creative cartoons or infographics — have their parallels in documented crimes of the Israeli army. Using homes for military operations? The Israeli army occupies and converts Palestinian houses into outposts while the residents are confined to a certain section of the property. Disguising yourself as non-combatants to commit violent attacks? In November 2015, Israeli occupation forces dressed as civilians — including one as a pregnant woman in a wheelchair — during a raid on a Hebron hospital where they shot dead a man in cold blood.Israeli forces have also used human shields during invasions of Gaza. In July 2006, for example, soldiers in Beit Hanoun held six civilians, including two children, “at the entrance to rooms in which the soldiers positioned themselves, for some twelve hours,” during “intense exchanges of gunfire between the soldiers and armed Palestinians.” The Goldstone report also documented incidents during ‘Operation Cast Lead’ in which civilians “were blindfolded and handcuffed as they were forced to enter houses ahead of the Israeli soldiers.” The UN fact-finding mission behind the report concluded that “this practice amounts to the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields,” and that “it would not be difficult to conclude that this was a practice repeatedly adopted…during the military operation in Gaza.”’Operation Protective Edge’ was no exception to the Israeli army’s track record of using Palestinian civilians as human shields. In one account recorded by Defense for Children International – Palestine, Israeli soldiers “repeatedly used” a 17-year-old Palestinian “as a human shield for five days,” forcing him at gunpoint “to search for tunnels,” and subjecting him to physical abuse. The NGO’s executive director, Rifat Kassis, noted how “Israeli officials make generalized accusations [of Hamas fighters using human shields] while Israeli soldiers engage in conduct that amounts to war crimes.”The UN Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict noted “reports of the use of human shields [by Israeli soldiers] in the context of the search operations” on the ground in Gaza. The commission cited one case where Israeli forces were “shooting from behind…naked men, using them as human shields” for hours. The men were “told by the soldiers that they were placed by the window in order to deter Hamas fighters from returning fire.” The commission concluded that “the manner in which the Israeli soldiers forced Palestinian civilians to stand in windows, enter houses/underground areas and/or perform dangerous tasks of a military nature, constitutes a violation of the prohibition against the use of human shields contained in article 28 of Geneva Convention IV, and may amount to a war crime.”

(Source / 08.08.2016)

Tags: #ICC4Israel

Video of the Week New Clashes Erupt Between Israeli Security Forces, Muslim Worshippers

Temple Mount temporarily closed to Jewish visitors after clashes with police

The Temple Mount was temporarily closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday at the order of Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy after Jews broke visitation rules at the holy site, police said. The Jewish visitors were expelled from the compound for bringing sacred books to the Mount and trying to pray there. After one of the individuals was cautioned, another took out a holy book, and the group was expelled. Meanwhile, renewed clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli security forces near the Lion's Gate in the Old City, where police used stun grenades against the demonstrators. A regular dynamic has developed involving clashes between Palestinians and Israel Police over the past several days near the Lion's Gate. Dozens of Palestinians are present at the site on a regular basis, urging devotion to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and condemning Israel. During Muslim prayer times, particularly the midday and nighttime prayers, hundreds and sometimes even thousands have been gathering there.

There have been outbreaks of violence during these periods, including stone-throwing or physical confrontations with the police. In most of these incidents, the police have been using stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets to disperse the crowds. In a number of cases, journalists in the area have also suffered violence at the hands of the police. On Tuesday, Hassan Shaalan, a reporter for the Ynet news website, was struck by a policeman even after he identified himself as a member of the press. A group of Jerusalem-based journalists released a statement of condemnation over the incident and called on the police to permit reporters to do their jobs. The Jerusalem Police responded: "This involved an incident that took place in the course of violent disturbances of the peace that occurred in Jerusalem while the police were acting to remove the demonstrators from the street after some of them refused to vacate. The forces working on the scene are under constant threat to their lives. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.802141

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