Commander that used human shields suspended |

Commander that used human shields suspended

JERUSALEM – The Israeli army said Friday that it was suspending the commander of troops seen using two Palestinian youths as human shields, the latest evidence that its soldiers still protect themselves with civilians in violation of international and Israeli law.A foreign peace activist filmed the youths standing in front of the troops’ jeep to protect it from other Palestinians throwing stones. International law and a 2005 Israeli Supreme Court ruling ban the use of human shields, an issue that came under renewed scrutiny after AP Television News footage in late February showed a Palestinian man forced to lead heavily armed soldiers in house-to-house searches for militants.A 60-second video clip of the most recent incident was posted late Thursday on the Yediot Ahronot newspaper’s Web site. The footage, shot Wednesday in Nablus, showed two Palestinian youths leaning against the front of a military jeep with their arms crossed, while a soldier sat inside the passenger’s seat.The activist is heard shouting, “You can’t use them as human shields, it is against the law!””We are not using them as a human shield,” the soldier replied.”They are standing in front of your jeep. How is that not a human shield? You are using them to protect you from stones,” the activist retorted.”We asked them to speak to their friends and ask them to stop throwing stones at us,” the soldier said.Shortly after the video was posted, 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 also has been ordered, the statement said.For years, Palestinians have accused the army of using human shields, but proof was elusive. Human rights groups say the use of civilians in military operations has dropped sharply since the Supreme Court ban, but has not disappeared.Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti denounced Friday’s suspension as window-dressing.”They are treating it as an isolated incident,” he said. “The problem is systematic and … they (troops) continued the practice despite the (Supreme) Court order,” he said.Since the AP Television News footage was aired, other Palestinians, including an 11-year-old girl, have been emboldened to come forward with similar accounts of being compelled to walk ahead of soldiers looking for militants.Those cases have prompted a rare criminal investigation into whether troops broke the law.The multiple incidents underscore the dilemma the army faces after 40 years of occupation in the West Bank. While it says its operations are needed to protect Israel against Palestinian militants, it has been forced to use increasingly tough measures during the last six years of fighting.The landmark Israeli 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 militants to surrender peacefully. And it says it never allowed troops to use civilians for cover during battles.But in August 2002, a 19-year-old Palestinian student was killed in a gunfight that erupted after he was forced to knock on the door of a building where a fugitive was hiding.In addition to the Israeli proscription, international law, including the Geneva Conventions and Hague regulations, prohibits placing civilians in harm’s way during military operations.—On the Net:,7340,L-3387356,00.html

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