Report: Israeli soldiers used children as 'human shields'

The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem has accused the Israeli army of using two Palestinian minors as human shields during their operations against militants in the town of Nablus in late February. The group reports on its website that an 11-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy, as well as a 24-year-old man were used by the troops in "a flagrant breach of international humanitarian law and [an act that is] is explicitly and clearly prohibited by Israeli military orders.

In its letter to the Judge Advocate General, B'Tselem pointed out that this was the fourth time since June 2006 (when "Operation Summer Rains," in Gaza , took place), that the organization had documented Israeli soldiers' use of Palestinian civilians as human shields. As far as B'Tselem knows, in only one of these cases did the JAG order a Military Police investigation. That investigation has not yet been completed. In light of these cases, B'Tselem expressed its concern that the military order prohibiting this practice is not property communicated to soldiers, and that the delay in investigating these incidents conveys a message of lenience in the military's treatment of soldiers who engage in such practices.

The Associated Press reports Friday that the Israeli army has already announced a "thorough investigation" into the allegations.

Reuters reports that the 11-year-old girl in question, Jihan Daadush, said Israeli soldiers were questioning her family about "gunmen who had fired at the troops." She said they "threatened to arrest her" unless she led them to a nearby house.

"When we reached the house, there were a lot of soldiers. The soldiers ordered me to go inside the house, and I went inside."

B'Tselem said Jihan told the group's interviewers that the soldiers shone flashlights and asked about the rooms of the house. The girl said two soldiers then returned her home. There was no mention in the group's report of whether soldiers found militants inside the house.

One soldier "told me, 'Thank you, but don't tell anyone,' " the girl said, according to B'Tselem. "I was afraid they would kill me or put me in jail. I am still afraid the soldiers will invade the city again and take me away."

An Associated Press camera crew actually filmed the use of the man as a human shield. The film was later broadcast on Israeli television and abroad. AP reports that – in its initial response to the film – the Israeli military said its soldiers had done nothing wrong, but later said that they would investigate the incident.

In the AP video, the young Palestinian man is seen leading soldiers to the door of a home. He stands outside as troops move in, then leads the soldiers up some stairs to the apartment's main entrance.

The man enters the home ahead of the soldiers. Gunshots are heard as several soldiers stand guard outside. The man then leaves the home, walks down the stairs and escorts the soldiers around the side of the building, where he said he led soldiers into two more apartments out of view of the cameras.

Later, he is seen on the footage being led down stairs with several suspects. He and the other men are all placed into a military vehicle.

AP also quotes Yaacov Amidror, a retired Israeli general who is a security specialist at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, who argues the use of civilians in this way during raids actually is actually the best way to protect soldiers and other innocent civilians. When the Israeli Supreme Court ruled on the use of human shields, however, it rejected similar arguments from the Israeli army.

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