Israeli forces have used a female Palestinian teenage girl to shield themselves from incoming bullets during a last week raid in the northern part of the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, an international children rights organization says.
Defense for Children International (DCI) recounted the development involving Ahed Mohammad Rida Mereb, 16, in gruesome detail, Palestinian Wafa news agency reported on Saturday, citing a Wednesday report by the rights organization.
According to the organization's Palestine offshoot (DCIP), the incident happened when the forces raided Ahed’s house in the city of Jenin to arrest her 20-year-old brother.
Israeli forces besieged Ahed’s home around 6 a.m. on May 13 in order to arrest her 20-year-old brother, according to documentation collected by DCIP. Israeli forces ordered Ahed, her parents, and her two younger brothers to leave the house and to move to a yard across the street. The forces exchanged fire with Ahed’s older brother, who remained in the house. Around 8 a.m., an Israeli military vehicle came under gunfire, which is when Israeli forces ordered Ahed to stand outside the military vehicle.
“Bullets were being fired at the military vehicle from all directions,” Ahed told DCIP.
“I was trembling and crying and shouting to the soldiers to remove me because the bullets were passing over my head, but one of them ordered me in Arabic through a small window in the military vehicle, ‘Stay where you are and don’t move. You’re a terrorist. Stand in your place until you say goodbye to your brother.”
The Israeli forces would not even let Ahed tilt her head to dodge the bullets, but one of the Israeli soldiers ordered her to stand up straight, she added.
After several hours, the Palestinian girl finally managed to run to a nearby tree, where she dropped unconscious to the ground.
“International law is explicit and absolutely prohibits the use of children as human shields by armed forces or armed groups," said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at the DCIP, adding, “Israeli forces intentionally putting a child in grave danger in order to shield themselves constitutes a war crime.”
The Israeli forces also fired barrages of rocket-propelled grenades at the house, which caused it to catch fire, and unleashed volleys of live bullets at it. They left the area about several hours later after detaining Ahed’s brother.
Ahed was transferred by private vehicle to Jenin Hospital and was treated for “intense mental stress and a severe lack of oxygen,” the official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.
Since 2000, DCIP has documented at least 26 cases involving Palestinian children being used as human shields by the Israeli army. Only one of those cases led to the conviction of two soldiers for “inappropriate behavior” and “overstepping authority.” Both were demoted in rank and given three-month suspended sentences.