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Last week's High Court of Justice ruling barring the army from using Palestinians as human shields during IDF operations to extricate wanted terrorists from their hideouts will force the army to come up with alternatives for minimizing the risk to soldiers, an IDF source said Sunday.
"The new situation created by the court ruling will directly affect the outcome of military operations," the source said.
Chief Justice Aharon Barak said that the procedures adopted by the army to combat terror since the outbreak of the second intifada were a flagrant violation of international law. Barak wrote in the ruling that "you cannot exploit the civilian population for the army's military needs, and you cannot force them to collaborate with the army."
While the army was unable to provide statistics for the number of Palestinian fatalities caused by use as human shields or "volunteers," the source insisted that the numbers were low.
The source recalled one instance from August 2002 when IDF forces used Nidal Mukhsan to enter a house in the Nablus village of Tubas to ascertain if it was empty. Outfitted by soldiers with a helmet and flak jacket, Mukhsan entered the house and was shot and killed by wanted Hamas commander Nasser Jarrar who mistook Mukhsan for a soldier.
As condemnation by human rights organizations grew over the procedures used by the army, it was forced to adopt an alternative. In December 2002, the army established the "early warning procedure," which has resulted in no Palestinian deaths or casualties so far, the source said.
The procedure's guidelines hold that soldiers could only request the assistance of a Palestinian resident of the specific building that was the target of an IDF raid, and under no circumstances could it force the person to implement the request. Also, the procedure could only be used in a non-battle zone and only at a site where there was no military equipment, the source said.
According to the human rights organization B'tselem, last week's ruling came as a result of a petition filed in May 2002 by seven humans rights organizations. On its Web site, B'tselem cites 10 instances where the army used Palestinians as human shields between 2002 and 2004.