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Israelis use Palestinian kids as human shields: Rights group

This handout picture released by the Israeli regime on May 7, 2024 reportedly shows the Israelis approcahing a tunnel in the area of Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip. (Photo by AFP)

A Geneva-based rights group has condemned the Israeli regime forces for using children as human shields in their assaults on Palestinians. 

The Defense for Children International (DCI) said it heard testimonies of three children who described how they were used as human shields by occupying Israeli forces during a recent search and assault operation in the West Bank’s Tulkarm refugee camp, the Middle East Eye on Sunday reported. 

The DCI said the Palestinian children said on May 5 and May 6 Israeli soldiers had forced them to walk ahead of them as they searched through the refugee camp, describing two instances in which the Israeli regime forces had placed their rifles on their shoulders.

One teen named Kareem recounted how Israeli forces stormed his family's apartment on May 6 and then forced him to lead them through the apartment block as they carried out a search operation in the building. The teen said the soldiers had placed a loaded rifle on his shoulders and fired two shots toward one of the apartment's entrances.

Another child, Mohammad, said during a raid on his home, he was forcibly separated from his family by the Israeli forces.

"I remained alone with the soldiers after they instructed my mother and siblings to climb to the fourth floor of the building. I started crying and trembling with fear because I didn't know what they would do to me. They were armed, masked, and their appearance was terrifying, accompanied by a large police dog making frightening noises," Mohammad said.

He said they told him to knock on each apartment door in the building and tell the residents in the apartments to leave their homes.

Mohammad said if an apartment was empty and no one answered, the armed men would enter by force.

"When we reached the door of one of the apartments and found it empty, the soldiers blew up the door and forced me to enter alone to inspect it," said the Palestinian child.

Ibrahim, another Palestinian teen, recounted how on the morning of May 6, Israeli forces stormed his family's home in the Tulkarm refugee camp in a "brutal and terrifying manner," searching and vandalizing their belongings.

He said, "A group of soldiers took me to one of the rooms and began interrogating me. When I told them I knew nothing, one of them threatened me in Arabic and said (I'll smash you if you don't talk). Then he physically assaulted me for several minutes before handcuffing my hands behind my back with a plastic tie. They then took me outside and asked me to walk in front of the soldiers."

"I was trembling with fear and terror. At first, I thought they wanted to arrest me, but they asked me to walk in front of them in the alleys of the Al-Sawalme neighborhood in the camp. They would hide in the alley and ask me to show the way. After that, they released my hands, and every time we passed by a house or building, they would ask me to enter and ask the residents to leave and head towards the soldiers, after which they would raid those homes. During the raids, they would ask me to open the internal doors of the houses and apartments."

Ibrahim said after about two hours of searching the camp, the Israelis took him to a house in the camp where he was detained alongside others until the Israeli forces withdrew from the camp.

In the meantime, the use of Palestinians as human shields by Israeli regime forces in numerous cases has been well documented by multiple human rights organizations.

Israeli regime forces put Palestinian civilians in front of them or otherwise put civilians in the line of fire, and force them to open doors that could be booby-trapped or remove suspicious objects that might be bombs. They also force them to walk through suspected booby-trapped buildings.

The Zionist forces also often employ the "neighbor procedure" in which Palestinian civilians are forced to attempt to persuade individuals to leave or surrender themselves.

“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.”

For decades, both Palestinian children as well as adults have been used by the Israeli forces during operations as human shields.

The use of civilians as human shields is one of many war crimes committed by the Israeli regime forces.

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