The human rights organization B'Tselem claims that IDF soldiers used six Palestinians, two of them underage, as human shields for twelve hours during IDF operations this week in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza strip.
A B'Tselem investigation published Thursday states that during the operation, IDF forces took over two buildings in Beit Hanoun. The residents served as human shields at that time, during which exchanges of fire took place between IDF forces and Palestinian operatives. The organization claims that the soldiers endangered the lives of the Palestinians in the buildings, who were forced to remain where they were, contrary to their wishes.
The investigation further states that, among other things, the soldiers forced a female resident to accompany them during a search of the buildings' apartments, bound the hands of the residents, and put them in a stairwell exposed to gunfire.
B'Tselem drafted a letter to the Military Advocate General, requesting that he open an investigation regarding this matter. The organization demanded that, pursuant to the investigation, the responsible parties be held legally accountable. The letter explained that use of civilians as human shields by military forces, in order to protect the forces from attack, is a violation both of IDF commands and of international humanitarian law.
'IDF warned local population'
The IDF spokesperson's office said: "Claims of improper treatment of Palestinian civilians during IDF operations in Gaza three days ago are under investigation. Even during the hard fighting in the north and south, the IDF is careful to act in accordance to high moral principles and the rules of war. Any claims of a breach of these standards will be investigated."
IDF sources said that "considering the difficult reality of armed terrorists operating from the midst of densely populated areas and residential neighborhoods in Gaza, the IDF, as part of its operation to eliminate terrorist infrastructure in Beit Hanoun, positioned themselves in homes in order to protect the operating forces."
They added that "prior to and during this operation, the forces operated ethically, with an emphasis on professionalism, a high moral standard and prevention of collateral damage. The IDF warned the local population, using pamphlets and other means, to stay away from those areas where terror organizations operate to plan and implement Qassam and other attacks."