March 17, 2007

Israel's use of human shields: HRW weighs in

According to Reuters (though the article carries a Reuters disclaimer), Human Rights Watch has followed B'tselem's lead in condemning the Israeli army's use of Palestinian civilians, including children, as human shields:
The Israeli army should immediately cease deliberately endangering Palestinian civilians by forcing them to assist military operations, Human Rights Watch said today. During recent military operations in the Old City of Nablus, Israeli soldiers forced at least three Palestinians at gun point, two of them children, to assist in searching apartments for suspects. International humanitarian law prohibits a party to a conflict from using the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military operations.
"The soldiers' actions fly in the face of the Geneva Conventions, an Israeli high court decision, and the IDF's own prior commitments," said Joe Saunders, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch. "Israel should put an immediate end to this wholly illegal practice which deliberately abuses the immunity to which civilians are guaranteed under international law."

According to testimonies gathered by the Israeli human rights organization, B'Tselem, on February 25, on the first day of Israel's military operation in the Old City of Nablus, Israeli soldiers forced two cousins, 'Amid and Samah Amirah, ages 15 and 24, to walk at gun point in front of them as they entered and searched nearby homes. 'Amid also described how the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) used him at his own house at a time when the IDF apparently believed one or more suspects might be inside, as suggested by the fact that soldiers fired shots during the search: "They aimed their weapons at me. One of them pushed me so that I would go into the house first. I went in first, and then the soldiers entered. One of them pushed me to a corner of the room, and then fired into the house. They fired 5-6 shots inside the house. They told me to go into the rooms and then they came in behind me."

The soldiers also forced 'Amid's cousin Samah at gun point to enter all the rooms of a house and later fired live shots into the rooms. AP television cameramen filmed and broadcast part of this incident.

Start dusting off those "blood libel" allegations Israel.

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