Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

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Hiding behind civilians: The continued use of Palestinian civilians as human shields by the Israeli Occupation Forces

36The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights has released an important update to its July 2008 report on the IOF practise of hiding behind Palestinian human shields. The use of civilian human shields is customary Israeli practice in gross violation of international law, in which the practice is a war crime and crime against humanity, as well as a violation of Israel’s own High Court ruling of 2005, which itself came after a three-year legal battle. The pretence extends then to the illusion of israeli rule of its own law.

The Al Mezan report also takes the international community to task for its “continued failure … to fulfill its obligations and its silence on Israeli violations [which] encourages Israel to proceed with its crimes.”

Full_Report (pdf, 19pp)


“They handcuffed and blindfolded me. Then, they forced us to move out of the room, pushing me with their hands and guns to move although I was blindfolded and pregnant. I heard them pushing others to hurry up as well. I got exhausted and I fell down many times…I told them that I was four months pregnant and couldn’t continue but a soldier threatened to shoot me…”

Testimony of woman from As-Sreij neighborhood, April 2008

Perhaps ultimately, this Al Mezan report attests to the futility of seeking protection for Palestinians through the Israeli legal system. In 2005, after a three-year legal battle waged by Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations, the Israeli High Court finally banned the Israeli Occupation Forces’ (IOF) systematic practice of using Palestinian civilians, including women and children, as human shields. However, as the witness testimonies in this report demonstrate, and in clear contravention of international humanitarian law, this cruel and sometimes lethal practice continues with immunity in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt), with tragic consequences for its victims.

Section I of the report presents the position of international human rights law (IHRL) and international humanitarian law (IHL) on the use of civilians as human shields. It affirms that given the extent of the risk involved in this practice, using civilians as human shields constitutes a gross violation of the norms of IHL, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention, and is tantamount to the perpetration of war crimes and crimes against humanity. This section also describes the legal battle fought by human rights organizations to ban this practice under Israeli law, and highlights the IOF response to this ruling which demonstrates clearly that the use of human shields is a systematic IOF policy.

Section II provides an overview of the use of Palestinians as human shields by the IOF since the second Intifada (which started in September 2000) and demonstrates that despite the 2005 Israeli High Court prohibition, this practice continues on a widespread basis in the oPt. It also explains the different forms of this practice used by the IOF in the oPt.

Section III presents a series of case studies from Gaza based on sworn witness testimonies. In one incident, a pregnant woman was blindfolded and forced to accompany IOF soldiers for several hours. In another incident an 11-year-old girl was shot in the stomach after being ordered by Israeli soldiers to go to the home of a relative and instruct him to leave his house. Other case studies record the use of a 14-year-old boy, medical personnel and families at home as human shields.

Section IV reminds the international community of their legal obligation to act and calls for immediate and effective action to halt this practice before more innocent lives are destroyed.

8 comments on “Hiding behind civilians: The continued use of Palestinian civilians as human shields by the Israeli Occupation Forces

  1. peoplesgeography
    30 April, 2009

    Your claims about Hamas and Hezbollah firing from civilians areas are completely unsubstantiated nonsense. Hezbollah are too disciplined a force to compromise their operations by involving or having civilians nearby. Several Hezbollah experts and analysts across the political spectrum have said that the opposite is the case. HA hid the location of hundreds of bunkers in southern Lebanon to store weapons and shelter their fighters, and these were not among civilian centres. See Alastair Crooke and Mark Perry, Paul de Rooj and Steven Zunes, just to name a few.

    The aforementioned Zunes, with whom I do not agree on many things but nevertheless marshall his substantiated judgment here, writes that he knows of NO independently documented cases in israel’s 2006 destruction where Hezbollah has engaged in “exploiting civilian populations as shields” when he challenged US Congressional members to cite any.

    If Congressional members and their staffers can not, you must be in supply of superior sources. Please, do substantiate your claims.

    As for the incident in Gaza to which you refer, since you are light on details and facts, that was specifically in Beit Hanoun, scene of more than one ill-advised and bloodyminded IOF massacre,and it occured in November 2006.

    It rates as one of the best and most effective instances of non-violent civil resistance I have seen. These brave and courageous Palestinian women risked their lives to help out their menfolk, and I tip my hat off to them. They prevented a bloodbath. In Beit Lahia at around the same time, too, Haaretz reports that an IOF strike was called off after another courageous act of Gandhian resistance.

    Mind you, the presence of civilians hasn’t much deterred the israeli occupation forces in its sordid history, but these instances are testament to the incredible resilience and fortitude of the Palestinians in the face of the US ZOG-funded and abetted israeli militarism and genocide they face daily.

  2. juiceempire
    29 April, 2009

    You’re serious?

    Hamas, Hezbollah, etc., they ALL deliberately place their entire military infrastructure in highly populated areas.

    In the recent Gaza war, there were numerous news outlets reporting arms caches and fighters holed up in shelters along with the civilian population.

    They would even fire from said shelters and then flee, hoping the return fire by the IDF would kill the civilians inside; the very civilians Hamas has sworn to protect, just to further demonize Israel in the international media.

    And I wonder how much of the above report is nothing but propaganda. Because Hamas and the like, their chief weapon is the media, one reason why they hide and store munitions in civilian shelters.

    In the 2006 Lebanon war, there were numerous documented reports of Hezbollah fighters firing rockets just outside the doors of civilian shelters, and then fleeing. Moments later, the shelter gets shelled by Israeli artillery.

    There was an instance about a year ago, regarding an infiltration of Gaza by IDF in which the Hamas fighters fled to a mosque, called to the local women to come to their rescue, and behold, about 50 women all in their head-to-toe black garb come bunched up in front of the mosque for the sieged fighters to run into the midst of.


  3. m.idrees
    30 April, 2009

    Reputable sources, I presume? What’s keeping you from producing them then?

  4. peoplesgeography
    2 May, 2009

    Greetings. You write:

    “The things I reported of here come from years of newspaper and online reading. To think that I have all of these resources in front of me, or bookmarked, is ridiculous.”

    ‘fraid what is ridiculous are your sources which are neither credible nor non-partisan. Any serious claims are based on credible sources which are easy to make a note of: I suggest you try any free and easy-to-use online bookmarking service like Clipmarks or

    You cite the “NGO Monitor”, an israeli entity that for all intents and purposes exists to attack legitimate criticism of israel. True to form, in your link it is attacking Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in an attempt to undermine their legitimacy.

    I’m in fact grateful you cite NGO Watch, as it alerts us and readers who may not already be aware of just what this group is all about. Started by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and operated by israeli academic Gerald Steinberg, Muzzlewatch notes this about the NGO Monitor:

    Although using language that would appear to give the impression of a neutral watch dog of non-governmental human rights organizations (NGOs), NGO Monitor (NGOM) is a partisan organization that weakens universal human rights infrastructure by charging many of the world’s best known human rights organizations with bias against Israel.

    Your wholly partisan and discredited “sources” such as the Anti-Defamation of League of B’Nai Brith as well as your claims about Hamas attacking first are utterly devoid of credibility. “Years of newspaper and online reading” hearsay just doesn’t cut it.

    No one has disputed the existence of Jews in Palestine this last millennia, it isn’t even an issue.

    “If this turns into a bitter dispute between conflicting ideologies, as I feel it might, then I will refrain from further posting here.”

    Its too laughable to be at all “bitter”, quite frankly. As for refraining from further commenting, please: be our guest. We invite serious comments with credible sources, not crude half-baked hasbara re-hashes. No further time will therefore be wasted.

  5. Pingback: Rebuttal of Pro-Hezbollah, Pro-Hamas Posters « Land Apart - Juice Empire

  6. juiceempire
    2 May, 2009


    I tried leaving my rebuttal here, but it didn’t post.

    Therefore I have put my response, along with source information, on my own blog:


  7. Pingback: PSC Update 30 April 09 « Palestine is not a dirty word

  8. Pingback: Mass Murder in Gaza and Ukraine – Stephen Lendman

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This entry was posted on 28 April, 2009 by in Human Rights, International Law, Israel, Palestine and tagged , .

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