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As Bombs Go Silent, Testimonies Mount That Israeli Soldiers Used Gazans as Human Shields

Abdul Rahman tells journalist Max Blumenthal that Israeli troops forced the Wahadans to stay home before bombing their house. (Photo by Max Blumenthal)

Abdul Rahman tells journalist Max Blumenthal that Israeli troops forced the Wahadans to stay home before bombing their house.
(Photo tweeted by Max Blumenthal from his Twitter account on Aug. 27)

One of Israel's most repeated official claim during the latest war in Gaza was that Hamas was using Palestinian civilians as human shields. Now, several independent journalists, human rights organizations and the United Nations are accusing Israel of using Palestinian civilians as human shields.

On August 26, Israel and the Palestinian factions agreed to halt fighting indefinitely, putting an end to seven weeks of catastrophic destruction and loss of life in Gaza. 

At least 2,137 Palestinians were killed, including 577 children, and 10,870 wounded, since Israel launched a massive offensive called Protective Edge against the 40-kilometer-long coastal strip on July 8. 

This was Israel's third military operation in Gaza in the last six years. Excessive restrictions from Israel in the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank aggravate conditions in areas that most of the world and the United Nations considers occupied by Israel.

Seventy-two percent of Palestinians killed in this offensive were civilians, according to the UNAbout a third of the wounded children, will be forced to live with permanent disabilities. One-third of Gaza's total population, over 520,000 people, have been displaced of whom 279,389 were taking shelter in 83 UN-run schools.

When American journalist Max Blumenthal went back to Gaza following the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, he interviewed several of Gaza's residents. Here's his report for AlterNet.

One particular incident is worth quoting:

Mahmoud said the Israeli troops dragged him back into his house, blindfolded him and wrapped him in a blanket on the floor as they began to blow holes in the walls to use as makeshift sniper slits — what US troops in Afghanistan called “murder holes.” Then the soldiers stripped Mahmoud to his underwear, handcuffed him, slammed him against a wall and began to beat him. With an M-16 at his back, they forced him to stand in front of open windows as they hunted his fleeing neighbors, sniping directly beside him at virtually anything that moved. When they were not using him as a human shield, Mahmoud said, the soldiers left him alone in the room with an unleashed army dog who was periodically ordered to attack him.

Defence for Children International – Palestine reports the story of 17-year-old Ahmad Abu Raida from Khuza'a, who claims to have been used as a human shield. But the use of human shields during the Khuza'a Massacre were not limited to Abu Raida. His story echoes two testimonies of a 32 year-old and a 56 year-old man from Khuza'a collected by the American-Jewish news site Mondoweiss.

The Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights also gathered testimonies from Gazans claiming to have been used as human shields. The man featured below explains how his father was killed:

“My father made a step forward, came closer and spoke to them in Hebrew. And said: we are a peaceful people, we love peace. He kept repeating it in Arabic several times. We love peace. My father was an elderly man and holds a Spanish traveling document. My dad made one step forward, hardly a step on the stairs. As he put his foot on the step, he was shot twice in the heart.”

Before himself and three children were taken to be used as human shields:

“They ordered us to take off our clothes and tied our hands up. They took us to one of the rooms and used us as shields, making us stand at the windows as if we were looking outside. I was at one window and three children from my family at another. The soldiers then began firing around us.”

It is important to note that using Palestinians as human shields is not a new Israeli practice. As early as 2002, both international and Israel NGOs reported of Israel's use of Palestinians as human shields. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reported of its use during the Battle of Jenin as part of Israel's Operation Defensive Shield during the Second Intifada. Israeli Human Rights NGO B'TSelem reported in 2006 of a particular incident in which six civilians, including two minors, were used as human shields in Beit Hanun:

After seizing control of the buildings, the soldiers held six residents, two of them minors, on the staircases of the two buildings, at the entrance to rooms in which the soldiers positioned themselves, for some twelve hours.

The IDF admitted to using Palestinians as human shields at least 1,200 times during the Second Intifada (2000-2005). Despite the fact that the practice was banned by the Israeli High Court in 2005, it continued during the 2008-2009 war in Gaza (Operation Cast Lead). Following the war, the UN Human Rights Council condemned Israel's use of Palestinians as human shields.

Breaking the Silence, the Israeli NGO composed of IDF soldiers and veterans collecting stories of their experiences in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, as well as Amnesty International, accused Israel of continuing to use Palestinians as human shields by forcing them to stay in their homes. After invading Palestinians’ homes, Israeli soldiers forced civilians, including children, to stay in one room of the house while they used the remaining rooms as military positions.

In 2013, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child accused Israel of “continuous use of Palestinian children as human shields and informants”.

Also see our in-depth 2014 coverage on war-battered Gaza. 

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  • Nicko Thime

    Not even a little surprised.

  • GreenEagle

    Not a word, of course, about the genocidal Hamas organization’s deliberately setting their own people up to be killed, by endless rocket fire into Israel, launched from civilian sites adjacent to hospitals, schools, apartment buildings, hotels, and on and on. When you treat Israel with such disproportionate criticism, you make yourself antisemites.

    • b_williams

      Yes. And they killed three Israeli civilians too! That’s shocking. The Israeli army was much more careful and only killed a thousand or two of the Palestinian civilians. That shows how caring, restrained and compassionate they have been in the face of such mass brutality.

      • GreenEagle

        Hamas is a genocidal terrorist organization that is committed to the extermination of all Jews in the world. As long as that is the case, they are fair game for anyone to target, and if they put their own people in harm’s way, the fault lies entirely with them.

        With the massive amount of aid that the Palestinians have had over the years, they could have built a showplace in Gaza, with its Mediterranean coastline and fertile soil. Instead, they have deliberately brutalized the population and left them with nothing. No conversation about the situation can even begin until this evil is recognized.

        • the_real_Orangutan

          I understand that Hamas calls for the elimination of the state of Israel because they feel the land was taken from them. I have never heard of Hamas calling for the killing of all Jews in the world. Extremists on both sides of the Israel/Palestine conflict regularly call for ‘ethnic cleansing’, by which they mean driving each other out (send them to Jordan, etc.). Perhaps you should refrain from disproportionate criticism of one side.

          • stannadel

            read the Hamas charter, it’s there.

          • the_real_Orangutan

            No, it’s not. I have now read the Charter of Hamas (1988). There is plenty there about taking back the land of Palestine. Plenty of religious fundamentalism. Plenty of Jew-hating and ridiculous anti-Jewish misinformation. Plenty of war mongering. But there is no call for the extermination of Jews worldwide. Indeed, the Hamas Charter states that Islam, Christianity and Judaism can coexist peacefully (under the “wing of Islam”). Go read it yourself.

          • canadianwest

            Thank you O’ for putting that ugly Israeli lie to rest but I am afraid you are wasting your time inviting stannadel to read anything. He is, unfortunately gifted with blinders meant to be fitted on a dumb horse so it doesnt get distracted as it pulls a wagon full of shit from house to house.
            Sadly stannadel seems to have spilled most of his load on himself.

          • GreenEagle

            You haven’t read the document either, apparently, or you too are an apologist for genocidal terrorists.

          • GreenEagle

            You have apparently not read the part about the trees, which is a reference to an Islamic fable calling for the extermination of Jews. You are either spouting ignorance, or you are a genocide supporting liar yourself.

          • the_real_Orangutan

            Oh my, here we go… large purple veins are starting to bulge out on your forehead, GreenEagle.

            Gharqad trees? (You know, the trees that CAN’T talk..) That’s all you got? The hadith about gharqad trees refers to a future battle that takes place on the banks of the Jordan River. They are talking about a local battle, not the world-wide extermination of Jews.

            Are you ignorant, or a liar?

          • GreenEagle

            I am a person who knows how this fable is interpreted throughout the Muslim world. Hamas is a genocidal, terrorist cult, and whoever tries to whitewash that fact is a very evil person. That includes you.

          • the_real_Orangutan

            Hamas is indeed a terrorist cult. Their charter combines nationalism and religious fundamentalism of the most virulent stripes, and they are quite comfortable with homicidal violence. (Sound familiar? Beware when this combination occurs in your country). However, you still have not proven advocacy of genocide to my satisfaction.

          • canadianwest

            Tell you what cowboy, why don’t you take a wee bit of time and quote here the text that purportedly states what you are claiming and, please, forget the obscure fables you are now peddling as you attempt to back-peddle from your initial claim that Hamas clearly states its goal is the worldwide extermination of Jews.
            Cut the name calling because the 2,300 Palestinians dead in this latest invasion, as opposed to a handful of unarmed Israelis, suggests pretty clearly if anyone is intent on genocide it’s not the Palestinians. And when you call me a “liar” what am I to think but that you are a dumbfuck dolt who doesn’t get out much. I note it’s a theme that runs through your attacks on others on this forum, which suggests you are about 18. Do your parents know you’re acting like such a fool?

          • ratherdrive

            You must have missed this part in the Charter:
            “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”

            And this part:
            “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight
            the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and
            trees”

        • Hanah

          Cut the crap

    • the_real_Orangutan

      Nice try to change the topic, GreenEagle, but it appears that you don’t deny that the IDF used Palestinian civilians as actual (as in shooting from behind them) human shields at least 1200 times (3 wars ago and apparently continuing), by their own admission? We’ve heard your argument about hospitals and schools over and over again. Who is using disproportionate criticism?

      • GreenEagle

        I neither deny nor accept that claim. I will wait to see it from a vaguely reliable source. Endless lying claims about the behavior of the IDF have been made over the years, from the same people that deny the use of human shields by Hamas, in utter disregard of the welfare of their own people. Here, incidentally, from a blog post of mine, are excerpts from news broadcasts of three countries not noted for pro-Israeli sentiments, documenting the firing of missiles by Hamas from civilian areas: http://largegreenbird.blogspot.com/2014/08/its-all-just-zionist-propaganda.html

    • Nur

      Which is worse, the barbarians that take hostages, or the barbarians that kill hostages?

    • JimmyPete

      of course the article was in response to the oft sited reports of Hamas using “human shields” , the trouble is that Hamas is recognized as a “terrorist” organization. Israel is a sovereign state, just because Hamas uses this as a tactic, the Israeli army shouldn’t, war corrupts and Israel must find a way to stop using war alone, or it will be more and more corrupted. Recently Israel grabbed a big chunk of the West Bank, sorry this is just wrong, and ultimately unsustainable.

      • GreenEagle

        In general, I agree with you, JimmyPete. I think that the years of frustration at being constantly attacked while being characterized as the bad guys has left the Israelis with a willingness to tolerate over-reaction to provocations, but please remember that the “big chunk” of the West bank “grabbed” by Israel is about one and a half square miles. They shouldn’t be doing it, but it is not the huge aggression that it is being universally accused of being.

  • PATTY57

    Not true GreenEagle! Israel is murdering Palestinians, illegally occupying the land!

    • GreenEagle

      What land is Israel illegally occupying? They gave up Gaza long ago, and have made numerous attempts over the years to create a Palestinian state in the West Bank. Now, after decades of attacks and hatred, it appears that the Israeli populace has abandoned the moderation which has always marked their behavior. They have had enough of living in constant fear; and don’t try to pretend that this is in any way equivalent to the Palestinians’ situation, which they could end in a single day by accepting the fact that they can’t use terror to have the land for themselves only. This makes them a close equivalent to the Patriot movement in this country, who have also licensed themselves to act out their race hatred. Here’s the truth, Patty: Hamas is a genocidal terrorist organization that cares nothing for the deaths of their own people, let alone anyone else. Until you accept that fact, you are living in a fantasy world. Admit that, and then we can talk about an appropriate resolution to this situation.

      • JimmyPete

        Israel recently ceded to itself a large parcel on the West Bank. Settlements can’t under any circumstances be justified.

        • GreenEagle

          First of all, see my remark above. The “large parcel” is about one and a half square miles, not a “large parcel” except when Jews do it. Now second, I have reported in years past at my blog how Palestinian construction is routinely referred to as “villages,” while Israeli construction is routinely called “settlements.” This language is designed to further the impression that the Jews are illegitimate interlopers. This is particularly true for any development in the suburbs of Jerusalem, but certainly applies in many other cases.

          We know perfectly well what would happen to the Jewish population in any part of Israel that Hamas managed to seize. Of course, a whole different standard of behavior is demanded of Jews, because…well, you know why.

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  • fandango

    As good example as any of shameless shilling for the clerical-fascist Gaza regime. Even denizens of the nether regions of the of Israel-loathing cesspool such as mondoweiss et blumenthal are quoted as source of “information”. But this time you won’t succeed. ISIS will take care of that. This is the final nail in the coffin, and your barbarism will no longer have a human shield to hide behind. It’s ugly face is now for all too see.

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