Posted by: Lister | April 14, 2007

IDF commander suspended

IDF soldiers use Nablus youths as ‘human shield’

Despite repeated promises by the Israel Defense Forces not to make use of Palestinian civilians as ‘human shields’ during its activity in the territories, troops operating in Nablus were filmed ordering two Palestinian youths to stand in front of their vehicle to protect it from stones thrown by locals.

The act, which was also in violation of a Supreme Court decision from 2005, was filmed by a foreign activist on Wednesday in Nablus’ Sheikh Munis neighborhood, where the soldiers encircled the home of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades member Abed el-Qadr.

During the operation the IDF forces demolished the house, but it later turned out that el-Qadr was not on the premises.

Meanwhile, a number of Palestinian youths threw stones at an IDF Hummer that was securing the soldiers encircling the house. According to foreign peace activists at the scene, the soldiers then ordered two youths who happened to pass by to stand in front of the vehicle in order to stop the stone-throwing.

The Guardian quoted some of the conversation between the peace activist who filmed the event and one of the soldiers.

The Israeli army said Friday that it was suspending the commander of troops seen using two Palestinian youths as human shields, the latest evidence that its soldiers still protect themselves with civilians in violation of international and Israeli law.

A foreign peace activist filmed the youths standing in front of the troops’ jeep to protect it from other Palestinians throwing stones. International law and a 2005 Israeli Supreme Court ruling ban the use of human shields, an issue that came under renewed scrutiny after AP Television News footage in late February showed a Palestinian man forced to lead heavily armed soldiers in house-to-house searches for militants.

A 60-second video clip of the most recent incident was posted late Thursday on the Yediot Ahronot newspaper’s Web site. The footage, shot Wednesday in Nablus, showed two Palestinian youths leaning against the front of a military jeep with their arms crossed, while a soldier sat inside the passenger’s seat.

The activist is heard shouting, “You can’t use them as human shields, it is against the law!”

“We are not using them as a human shield,” the soldier replied.

“They are standing in front of your jeep. How is that not a human shield? You are using them to protect you from stones,” the activist retorted.

“We asked them to speak to their friends and ask them to stop throwing stones at us,” the soldier said.

[…] The landmark Israeli Supreme Court ruling banning the use of human shields was prompted by an outcry over the army’s widespread practice, in a 2002 West Bank offensive, of forcing Palestinian civilians to approach fugitives’ hideouts.

The army, which launched the offensive following a rash of suicide bombings, defended the practice at the time, saying it kept civilians out of harm’s way and encouraged militants to surrender peacefully. And it says it never allowed troops to use civilians for cover during battles.

But in August 2002, a 19-year-old Palestinian student was killed in a gunfight that erupted after he was forced to knock on the door of a building where a fugitive was hiding.

In addition to the Israeli proscription, international law, including the Geneva Conventions and Hague regulations, prohibits placing civilians in harm’s way during military operations.

The previous case referred to is when Sameh Amira was filmed leading IDF soldiers door-to-door as they conducted a search.

It’s illegal, under Israeli law, for the IDF to use civilians — even if those civilians volunteer.

The High Court of Justice has rejected the use of Palestinian civilians in military operations according to a military practice which the army called the “Neighborhood Procedure.” According to the procedure, the army said it would ask Palestinian civilians to volunteer to enter buildings suspected of harboring terrorists and urge them to give themselves up. But the court rejected the procedure, saying that civilians facing armed troops would be hard pressed to reject such requests.

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