IDF suspends officer for 'human shields'

Commander allegedly had youths stand in front of vehicle to block it from rocks.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
The IDF has suspended the commander of an operation in which troops ordered Palestinian youths in the West Bank to stand in front of their vehicle to protect it from stones thrown by locals, the IDF spokesman's office said Friday. Video footage capturing this incident in Nablus on Wednesday is the latest piece of evidence that the army continues to use human shields in violation of a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2005 barring the practice. "Following the incident in which IDF soldiers apparently made prohibited use of civilians, OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh ordered the suspension of the commander of the mission from all operational activity, in addition to the ongoing investigation into the matter," the army statement said. Additionally, the chief military counsel has ordered a military police investigation into the incident, the statement said. In March, The US-based Human Rights Watch organization called on the IDF 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.