Israel ‘Used Boy, 11, As Human Shield’
March 24, 2009 4 Comments
Israeli soldiers used an 11-year-old Palestinian boy as a human shield during the war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, UN human rights experts said yesterday.
The Israeli Defence Force ordered the boy to walk in front of soldiers being fired on in the Gaza neighbourhood of Tel al-Hawa and enter buildings before them, said the UN secretary general’s envoy for protecting children in armed conflict. The boy also was told to open the bags of Palestinians — presumably to protect the soldiers from possible explosives — before being released at the entrance to a hospital, Radhika Coomaraswamy said.
She said the January 15 incident was a violation of Israeli and international law.
It was included in a 43- page report published yesterday, and was just one of many verified human rights atrocities during the three- week war between Israel and Hamas that ended on January 18, she said.
Coomaraswamy — who visited Gaza and Israel in February — accused Israeli soldiers of shooting Palestinian children, bulldozing a home with a woman and child still inside, and shelling a building they had ordered civilians into a day earlier.
“Violations were reported on a daily basis, too numerous to list,” she said.
Coomaraswamy said there also have been allegations that Hamas used human shields or fired from heavily populated areas, which UN officials are investigating.
Israel criticised the report as “unable or perhaps unwilling” to address Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza or the threat of terrorism.
“The report claims to examine Israel’s actions while it willfully ignores and downplays the terrorist and other threats we face,” Ambassador Aharon Leshno Yaar told the 47-nation Human Rights Council. He did not address the report’s specific allegation about the boy, but an army spokesman rejected the claim.
“We are an army to which morals and high ethical standards are paramount,” said Captain Elie Isaacson.
Coomaraswamy said “hundreds of Israeli violations have been documented and verified” by UN officials who were in the territory.