Officer in 'human shield' case demoted

Soldiers pursuing fugitive surrounded Gaza house, mistakenly shot teen.

IDF arrests 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
IDF arrests 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
A Givati Battalion commander who ordered his soldiers to use the outlawed "neighbor policy" during an arrest operation in the Gaza Strip a month ago will be removed from duty, Israel Radio reported Monday. A 14-year-old girl was mistakenly shot during the operation in question after the battalion's soldiers surrounded a house in which a fugitive was believed to be hiding. The soldiers ordered one of the women inside to send all the occupants out. The girl was the first person to leave the building, and soldiers - expecting to encounter the fugitive - opened fire, hitting her in the stomach. OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant condemned the officer, who will no longer serve in a command position. Lower-ranked officers involved in the incident will also be disciplined. In April, the IDF said it was suspending the commander of troops seen using two Palestinian youths as human shields, in violation of a Supreme Court ruling banning the practice. The military announced the mission commander had been relieved of operational duty, 'following the incident in which IDF soldiers apparently made prohibited use of civilians.' A Military Police investigation had been ordered, the statement said. The landmark 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 terrorists to surrender peacefully. And it says it never allowed troops to use civilians for cover during battles. Human rights groups say the use of civilians in military operations has dropped sharply since the Supreme Court ban, but has not disappeared. AP contributed to this report.