Human Rights Watch urges IDF to stop using human shields

IDF orders probe into alleged violations of High Court ruling.

IDF nablus great 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
IDF nablus great 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The US-based Human Rights Watch organization called on the IDF over the weekend to stop allegedly endangering the lives of civilians by forcing then to assist in military operations. The demand was based on three reported incidents in which soldiers allegedly forced three Palestinians at gunpoint, including two children, to enter buildings or rooms suspected of harboring terrorists during Operation Hot Winter in Nablus three weeks ago. In response to the charges, originally leveled by B'Tselem and AP television, the Military Police (Investigations) announced that it would investigate the incidents. 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. "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 direct 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." The first allegations regarding the use of the "Neighborhood Procedure" were registered by B'Tselem on March 8. B'Tselem charged that soldiers forced children aged 11 and 15 and a man of 24 to serve as human shields. In one of the incidents, which allegedly took place on February 25, the first day of the operation, soldiers ordered the Omira family to leave their home in the Old City of Nablus. It then ordered 15-year-old Amid Omira to accompany them while they combed three buildings. Omira said the soldiers pushed him with their rifle barrels and forced him to enter the buildings before them, to open and empty closets and open windows. At the same time, soldiers took Amid's cousin, Samah Omira, and ordered him to enter all the rooms in his home while they walked behind him. This incident was televised by AP. IDF Judge Advocate-General Brig.-Gen. Avichai Mandelblit ordered the Military Police Thursday night to launch the criminal investigation into the allegations. The use of civilians in military operations has been ruled illegal by the Supreme Court and is prohibited by military orders. Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.