Violence Targeting Civilians

FILE - In this Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014 file photo, Palestinians look for their belongings after houses were destroyed in an Israeli strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. The military unleashed heavy shelling on the town the day before, after soldiers feared militants had captured an officer. Now, a prominent rights group in Israel is calling on the military to abandon the tactic known as the

Aug. 2, 2014. Palestinian children sift through the rubble of their homes to salvage their belongings after their houses were destroyed in an Israeli strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali, File)

Democracy Now interviews Avner Gvaryahu, a former IDF solder who served from 2004-2007 and is director of public outreach at Breaking the Silence.

Since Israel’s 2014 “Operation Protective Edge”

Israel’s 2014 “Operation Protective Edge”

  • Israeli soldier: “We Bombed Civilians for Entertainment”, International Middle East Media Center, May 2015. Israel solider reports, that during Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza:
    • “We bombed civilian targets for entertainment,”
    • “Our commander told us to imagine a 200 metre radius and to immediately shoot anything moving inside this circle”
    • “One day at about 8am we went to Al-Bureij; a densely populated refugee camp in central Gaza, and the commander told us to select a random target and shoot it. At the time we did not see any Hamas fighters, no one shot at us, but the commander told us jokingly: ‘We have to send Bureij a morning greeting from the Israeli army.’”
    • “I remember that one day, a soldier from our unit was killed and our commander asked us for revenge so I drew the tank randomly towards a huge white residential building, just four kilometres away from us and fired a shell at the 11th floor. I must have killed civilians who were absolutely innocent.”
    • “During the operations in the Gaza Strip, the unit commander said: ‘If you see someone in front of the tank who does not immediately flee, you must kill him’ so he could see that there are civilians.”
  • In response to Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, findings were released of an investigation carried out by Israeli military veterans’ group Breaking the Silence which found that the Israeli military’s used indiscriminate fire in heavily populated residential neighbourhoods in Gaza which caused the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians. The investigation has been covered in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Independent, and the Washington Post.
  • The killing of unarmed 23-year-old Salem Khaleel Shamaly by Israeli sniper on July 20: The Untold Story of the Shejaiya Massacre in Gaza: A Former Israel Soldier Speaks Out.
  • The United States has released a statement saying it was “appalled” by the “disgraceful” shelling by Israel in August 2014 of a United Nations school sheltering some 3,000 displaced people in southern Gaza.
  • Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem – the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, investigated 70 incidents in which at least three people were killed inside their home. In the 70 incidents B’Tselem looked at a total of 606 Palestinians were killed, “the vast majority of whom took no part in the fighting: more than 70% were either under 18, over 60 or women.” In once such incident the Israeli military’s bombed of a three story building in Khan Yunis which housed a kindergarten on the ground floor and four apartments. Thirty four people were killed, 19 of which were children. Ordinarily, 21 people lived in the building. They were joined by another 23 people, all members of one family who had been sheltering in the kindergarten since the fighting began. The bombing reduced the building to rubble and damaged houses nearby. One of the children killed was a 9 year old girl in a neighboring house.
  • B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories Testimonies:
  • Physicians for Human Rights-Israel has release a report that found that Israel’s attacks on Gaza “were characterised by heavy and unpredictable bombardments of civilian neighbourhoods in a manner that failed to discriminate between legitimate targets and protected populations and caused widespread destruction of homes and civilian property. Such indiscriminate attacks, by aircraft, drones, artillery, tanks and gunships, were not the result of decisions made by individual soldiers or commanders; they must have entailed approval from top-level decision-makers in the Israeli military and/or government.” It also found that “when the attacks did
    occur, the targets included possible escape routes, ambulances attempting to reach the wounded, and individuals attempting to flee” and there were “numerous cases in which double or multiple consecutive
    strikes on a single location led to multiple civilian casualties and to injuries and deaths among rescuers” and attacks on medical teams and medical facilities. The report also found evidence of shooting of civilians at short and medium range by individual soldiers using light arms, and abuse and ill-treatment during occupation of residential buildings, including the use of civilians as human shields and practices that could amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (CIDT) or even torture.” (pp.98-99).
  • An Israeli military commander has been recorded ordering troops to shell medical facilities.  Nerya Yeshurun, a lieutenant colonel, instructed that a clinic in the Shujaiya neighborhood in Gaza be fired upon on 23 July to “honor” an Israeli soldier who had been killed a day earlier.  In October 2014, Israeli military journal Bayabasha published an interview with him. In it, Yeshurun confirmed that he had instructed the unit to shell the clinic: “Personally, I loved Dima dearly … I was sorry that his company and I could not be at [the military graveyard on] Mount Herzl when he was being brought to burial, so we decided to fire a fusilade of shells toward the spot through which he lost his life during the funeral.”
  • The Press Emblem Campaign, a Geneva-based non-governmental organization with special consultative status with the United Nations, found that as of the 25 of August, 15 journalists and media workers had been killed during operation “Protective Edge” and that the lack of protection given to media workers is matter of deep concern. The report also found that the Israeli military had destroyed 8 media outlets in the Gaza Strip, five of them were targeted deliberately.
  • An investigation by freelance journalist Ben Norton found numerous examples of attacks on journalists and media workers in the conflict by the Israeli military.
  • The head of the Israeli military’s Doctrine Desk at the Infantry Corps Headquarters, Major Amitai Karanik, has reportedly tried to justify Israeli military doctrine in the 2014 Gaza offensive by arguing that: “In peacetime security, soldiers stand facing a civilian population, but in wartime, there is no civilian population, just an enemy” (see paragraph 55 of the Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict)
  • Human Rights Watch has reported that Israeli troops during  the 2014 assault on Gaza were “blatantly violating the laws of war designed to spare civilians,” including by shooting and killing fleeing civilians in a number of incidents between July 23 and 25 2014. A range of media organisations have also documented these incidents.
  • Human Rights Watch reports that Israel has a long record of failing to undertake credible investigations into alleged war crimes of its soldiers.
  • The Guardian and Palestinian Centre for Human Rights report that Israeli military used flechette tank shells, which spray out thousands of tiny and potentially lethal metal darts, in its 2014 assault on Gaza. Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem reports that the Israel military has also used flechettes in Lebanon that have killed and wounded dozens of Lebanese civilians including children. B’Tselem has also documented the Israeli military’s use of flechettes in Gaza in 2001 and 2002 that killed three children, three women, one mentally handicapped man in Gaza, and two others.
  • In June 2014 the Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict was released. During the conflict six civilians in Israel were killed. In Gaza 1,462 Palestinian civilians were killed, of whom 299 women and 551 children.  At least 142 Palestinian families had three or more members killed in the same attack.
    • The Commission of Inquiry investigated 15 specific cases of strikes on residential buildings across Gaza, in which a total of 216 people were killed, including 115 children and 50 women.The report found:
      • A clear pattern of strikes by Israeli forces on civilians in Gaza.
      • The fact that precision-guided weapons were used in all cases indicates that they were directed against specific targets and resulted in the total or partial destruction of entire buildings.
      • Many of the attacks took place in the evening, dawn or middle of the night, markedly increasing civilian casualties in the attacks.
      • Attacking residential buildings rendered women particularly vulnerable to death and injury.
      • In six of the cases examined, and in most cases reported on by non-governmental organizations, there was little or no information available to explain why Israel targeted these civilian buildings, which are under international law prima facie civilian objects immune from attack.
      • Under international law Israel is required to provide specific information on the effective contribution of a given house or inhabitant to military action and the clear advantage to be gained by its attack.
      • Any strike that directly and intentionally targets a house in the absence of a specific military objective is violation of international law.
      • Strikes that intentionally target civilian people and objects are a war crime under international criminal law (see paragraphs 35-38 of the report)
    • The Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict also found that:
      • During Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces used explosive weapons extensively in densely populated areas of Gaza and near medical facilities and shelters, resulting in a large number of casualties and extensive destruction.
      • The extensive use by the Israel Defense Forces of explosive weapons with wide-area effects, and their probable indiscriminate effects in the built-up neighbourhoods of Gaza, are highly likely to constitute a violation of international law prohibiting indiscriminate attacks.
      • In addition, the fact that the Israel Defense Forces did not modify the manner in which they conducted their operations after initial episodes of shelling resulted in a large number of civilian deaths indicates that their policies governing the use of artillery in densely populated areas may have been in breach of international law (see paragraphs
      • Identified several cases where the Israeli military targeted civilian people, including children, who were not directly participating in the hostilities and did not represent any threat to the Israeli soldiers present in the area. Directing attacks against civilians is a war crime.
      •  The protection of Israeli soldiers significantly influenced the conduct of the Israel Defense Forces in these operations, at times overriding any concern for minimizing civilian casualties.
      • A procedure, known as the “Hannibal directive”, was used by the Israeli military where there were fears that a Israeli soldier had been captured. The “Hannibal directive”reportedly gives considerable leeway to Israeli commanders in deciding how to prevent their soldiers from being captured, and is widely perceived as having led to intensified shelling. In Rafah, Gaza, following reports that an Israeli soldier had been captured, fevery moving vehicle or person became a potential target.
      • Applying the “Hannibal directive” in the context of a densely populated environment through the use of heavy weaponry predictably leads to violations of the rules of distinction and proportionality in international law (see paragraphs 46-60). On in-depth report on the Hannibal Directive is here. Al Jazaara reports that Hannibal Directive was quietly rescinded by the Israeli military in June 2016.

Infographic released by the UN with the report. Infographic released  by the Report of the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict.

  • Inquiry ordered by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon has found that Israel was responsible for striking seven United Nations schools used as civilian shelters during the 2014 Gaza war in which 44 Palestinians died and 227 others were injured. Releasing the report Ban Ki-moon condemned the attacks “as a matter of the utmost gravity” and said “those who looked to them for protection and who sought and were granted shelter there had their hopes and trust denied”. Ban insisted that UN locations were “inviolable”. Locations of all UN buildings – including schools used as shelters – are routinely provided to the Israeli military and updated in times of conflict. The UN inquiry was headed by retired general Patrick Cammaert, a former officer in the Dutch military and included military and legal experts. The Guardian has also reported in-depth on the attacks on the seven schools.
  • As of January 2015 the main U.N. aid agency in the Gaza Strip said that a lack of international funding had forced it to suspend payments to tens of thousands of Palestinians for repairs to homes damaged in Israel’s assault on Gaza.  “People are literally sleeping amongst the rubble, children have died of hypothermia,” Robert Turner, Gaza director of operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said in a statement.  He said UNRWA received only $135 million of the $720 million pledged by donors to its cash assistance program for 96,000 refugee families whose homes were damaged or destroyed in the 50-day offensive on Gaza.
  • United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon denounces Israel’s attack on the United Nations school sheltering some 3,000 displaced people in southern Gaza as a “moral outrage” and “criminal act”.
  • Israeli professor of language and education at Hebrew University of Jerusalem Nurit Peled-Elhanan, who is recipient of the 2001 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought awarded by the European Parliament, and daughter of Israeli Major-General Mattityahu Peled,  testifies to the European Parliament on Israel’s large scale targeting of civilians during the 2014 assault on Gaza: “In the onslaught on Gaza that has just ended, as in previous ones, the Israeli army was targeting the most crowded area in the world with the most ferocious and frequently illegal weapons that exterminate whole families, caused maximal localized damage, and not minimal collateral damage as Israeli propaganda has it, using weapons that cut children to pieces or burn them up completely, ” Ms Peled said. “The outcome of the attack is more than 2000 dead, 600 of whom are old people and children and 200 women, 20,000 people handicapped, blind, paraplegic, and many more with brain damages or 100% burns. Media personnel and university professors, paramedics and doctors were assassinated, 50,000 houses, 200 schools, more than 200 mosques, 17 hospitals and rehabilitation centres destroyed deliberately, leaving more than 600,000 people destitute without homes or means of livelihood, and 1.8 million people – the entire population of the Gaza Strip – with hardly any electricity, water and waste water infrastructures, not to mention medical supplies, food or freedom, just because they belong to a certain racial, religious or cultural group. This is not a war. This is sociocide, the destruction of a whole society, it is ethnocide, the destruction of a whole ethnic group, and for the Palestinians it is a holocaust” (September 2014).
  • Former senior Israeli ministerial adviser and lecturer at Tel Aviv University in Political Science, Dr. Martin Sherman publicly calls for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Gaza and the invasion and total seizure of Palestinian territory in Gaza by Israel:   “The only durable solution requires dismantling Gaza, humanitarian relocation of the non-belligerent Arab population, and extension of Israeli sovereignty over the region.” (July 2014).
  • The Times of Israel publishes an article titled “When Genocide Is Permissible” which attempts to justify attacks against and “genocide” of Palestinian civilians:” Nothing, then, can be considered disproportionate when we are fighting for our very right to live… anyone who lives with rocket launchers installed or terror tunnels burrowed in or around the vicinity of their home cannot be considered an innocent civilian… If political leaders and military experts determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals?” (August 2014).

Prior to Israel’s 2014 “Operation Protective Edge”

  • The Israeli military has admitted to targeting a building where it knew journalists were in its 2012 assault on Gaza.
  • The killing of unarmed American peace activist Rachel Corrie by the Israeli military in 2003, and the resultant court case launched by her family revealed that the Israeli military considered civilians legitimate targets:
    • The Guardian reported: “The original Haifa court case, which began in 2010 and concluded in 2012, cast a sharp spotlight on the attitudes of some Israeli officials to civilians in conflict areas.One mid-ranking officer testified that there were no civilians in war time, and the lead military police investigator expressed his opinion that the Israeli military was at war with everyone in Gaza, including peace activists.”
    • Human Rights Watch found that: “Corrie, 23, was killed on March 16, 2003, while attempting to prevent an armored Israeli bulldozer from demolishing the home of a Palestinian family near Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. She and other foreign nationals, wearing bright orange vests and using megaphones, shouted at and stood in front of bulldozers over the course of several hours to prevent them from destroying homes.”
  • The shooting of unarmed British peace activist Tom Hurndall in 2003 by the Israeli military also revealed a policy of the Israeli military targeting civilians. The Guardian reported that “Sergeant Wahid Taysir, the sniper who killed Hurndall, has already said a policy of shooting at unarmed civilians existed at the time.”
  • The UK, US and Israel-back an unsuccessful June 2007 military coup against the Hamas-led government elected in Palestinian elections in January 2006 (further links on these and other governments’ backing of the coup are here, here, here, here, here). With the failure of the coup and the assertion of control of Hamas over Gaza the Israeli government declared the Gaza Strip a “hostile entity” and threatened to further cut fuel and electricity supplies to the whole of Gaza in order to weaken Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza. The decision was described by international agencies and the United Nations as collective punishment, which is illegal under international law (Sept 2007).
  • Leaked cable from US Embassy in Israel: Cashless in Gaza?, Nov 2008: Israeli officials admit to their US counterparts that they intended to keep the Gazan economy functioning at a level barely sufficient to avoid a humanitarian crisis or collapse of the entire Gazan economy: “Israeli officials have confirmed to Embassy officials on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis” and “Israeli officials have confirmed to econoffs on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse”. An archive of the cable is also here.
  • Leaked cable from US Embassy in Israel: Limited food, fuel and medicine; Infrastructure under stress, Sept 2009: “Access to Gaza for goods through Israeli crossing points remains severely constrained. While there are adequate stocks of basic food items in Gaza, the lack of variety and continuing price increases are negatively impacting people’s health. A lack of medicine is crippling the health sector. The water and electricity grids, while restored to 2008 levels, suffer from a lack of supplies and basic maintenance.” An archive of the cable is also here.
  • In early 2006, Dov Weisglass, then a senior advisor to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, explained that Israeli policy was designed “to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”
  • In October 2012 Israeli advocacy group Gisha wins long court battle for the release of Israel government documents that show the Israeli government has deliberately restricted the amount of calories and food allowed into Gaza as part of its blockade of Gaza which Israel claims is to weaken Hamas but which have resulted in severe malnutrition in Gaza.  The Israeli government claimed that this restriction was based on the average daily minimum of 2,279 calories per person, in line with World Health Organisation’s guidelines, and would prevent the development of malnutrition. However in reality Israeli officials actually allowed only a fraction of this minimum requirement into Gaza. An average of only 67 trucks reached the border between Israel and Gaza. Even less food actually made it into Gaza: United Nations staff have noted that a large quantity of food from each day’s supply of 67 trucks never made it into Gaza because of Israeli restrictions at the crossings created long delays as food was intercepted, unloaded, checked and then put on to new trucks to travel into Gaza. Many items spoiled as they lay in the sun. Thus Gazans were restricted to even less  than 67 trucks of food daily, and much less than half of the minimum requirement established by the World Health Organisation. This compared to more than 400 trucks of food that entered Gaza before the blockade began. Robert Turner, director of operations for the UN agency for Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip, observed: “The facts on the ground in Gaza demonstrate that food imports consistently fell below the red lines.” (Oct 2012). The effect of this heavily restricted food intake of Gazans was reported in a  leaked report from the International Committee of the Red Cross in early 2008: “Chronic malnutrition is on a steadily rising trend and micro-nutrient deficiencies are of great concern”.
  •  Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem has documented the Israeli military’s use of flechettes in Gaza in 2001 and 2002 that killed three children, three women, and one mentally handicapped man in Gaza. B’Tselem reports that the Israel military has also used flechettes in Lebanon that have killed and wounded dozens of Lebanese civilians including children.
  • Tel Aviv University publication formally launches the Israeli military doctrine known as the Dahiya Doctrine which calls for inflicting massive Palestinian civilian deaths and damage to civilian property in an attempt to militarily defeat Hamas (Oct 2008). A range of information on the Dahiya Doctrine has been compiled by Australians for BDS here.
  • The Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (2009) which investigated Israel’s 2008-2009 assault on Gaza found that “The Gaza military operations were, according to the Israeli Government, thoroughly and extensively planned. While the Israeli Government has sought to portray its operations as essentially a response to rocket attacks in the exercise of its right to self-defence, the Mission [ie the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission investigators] considers the plan to have been directed, at least in part, at a different target: the people of Gaza as a whole. In this respect, the operations were in furtherance of an overall policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population for its resilience and for its apparent support for Hamas, and possibly with the intent of forcing a change in such support. The Mission considers this position to be firmly based in fact, bearing in mind what it saw and heard on the ground, what it read in the accounts of soldiers who served in the campaign, and what it heard and read from current and former military officers and political leaders whom the Mission considers to be representative of the thinking that informed the policy and strategy of the military operations.” (page 406).
  • Human Rights Watch has documented several incidents where the Israeli military fired with small arms on civilians during Israel’s 2008-2009 assault on Gaza, killing 11 people—including five women and four children—and wounding at least another eight.  These casualties comprise a small fraction of the Palestinian civilians wounded and killed during the operation, but they stand out because, in each case, the victims were standing, walking, or in slowly moving vehicles with other unarmed civilians, and were trying to convey their non-combatant status by waving a white flag.
  • Human Rights Watch has documented Israel’s illegal use of white phosphorus shells against civilians in the 2008-2009 assault on Gaza. Israel at first denied it was using white phosphorus in Gaza but, facing mounting evidence to the contrary, said that it was using all weapons in compliance with international law. Human Rights Watch reports that it is clear that in its 2008-2009 assault on Gaza the Israeli military “had deliberately or recklessly used white phosphorus munitions in violation of the laws of war”.
  • Leaked cable from US Embassy in Israel: IDF to investigate complaints of criminal conduct by its forces during Operation Cast Lead, July 2009: The cable reported that “The allegations of criminal conduct by various  organizations such as Human Rights Watch and the  International Red Cross have been persistent since the  conclusion of “Cast Lead” in January 2009.  Individual  Palestinians also testified to IDF abuses such as looting,  beatings, vandalism of property and the use of the local  population as human shields.  But by far the strongest  reverbration in Israel was that created by the Israeli  organization “Breaking the Silence”, which collected  testimony from 26 unnamed IDF soldiers.  All of the soldiers  had been involved in Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip,  and testified to instances where Gazans were used as human  shields, incendiary phosphorous shells were fired over  civilian population areas, and other examples of excessive  firepower that caused unnecessary fatalities and destruction  of property. The cable added that “On the even [sic] of Operation Cast Lead, the media put out the word that the plan of attack had been so carefully worked out that it would take the troops through the treacherous minefields of international law, a promise that now seems overly optimistic. The Goldstone Comission, the International Red Cross, and Human Rights Watch are all demanding accountability on Israel’s part fo [sic] the 1400 Palestinians killed — according to Palestinian claims — and the enormous damage to civilian property int he [sic] Gaza Strip. ” An archive of the cable is also here.
  •  Dr. Atef Abu Saif, professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, authored a study in 2014: Sleepless in Gaza: Israeli drone war on the Gaza Strip which found that: “The lethal use of drones in Gaza by Israel has led to the killing of hundreds of civilians and injuring many others. Though claimed to be precise and capable of sending back real-time imagery of activities on the ground, civilians are taken for combatants, as well as civil institutions including schools, hospitals, and cultural centers. The loud buzzing of the Israeli drones impacts the lives of the people in Gaza and leads to psychological and mental problems, specifically on children. It disrupts social and normal life, in addition to educational and academic achievements of students.”
  • Invisible killings: Israel’s daily toll of Palestinian children,  Ali Abunimah The Electronic Intifada, Dec 2002: Between  31 October to 2 December 2002 forty-three Palestinian civilians were killed  and dozens wounded or permanently maimed. A total of 1,926 Palestinians have been killed from 29 September 2000 up to 8 December 2002, and more than 21,000 injured. 669 of these killings occurred since Israel’s total reoccupation of the West Bank began in March 2002, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.

Human Shields Used by Israeli Military During and After 2008-2009 Assault on Gaza

  • Israeli soldiers use Palestinian child as human shield, B’Tselem and Middle East Monitor, Dec 2016
  • Palestinian children tortured, used as shields by Israel: U.N., Reuters, June 2013
  • Following Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, video and written testimonies from the Israeli military veterans’ group Breaking the Silence reveal that the Israel military used Palestinians as human shields.
  • Video of the Israeli military’s use of children as human shields in 2013 has been released by Defense for Children International-Palestine. They also report that 17 year old Ahmad Abu Raida was used as a human shield for five days while he was held hostage during Israel’s 2014 ground invasion of Gaza.
  • Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor headquartered in Switerland, released a report documenting Israel’s use of human shields during Israel’s 2014 offensive on Gaza. This report has also been covered by media organisations.
  • In 2013 the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child reported on a pattern of “continuous use of Palestinian children as human shields and informants (14 such cases having being reported from January 2010 to 31 March 2013 only)”.
  • Leaked cable from US Embassy in Israel: IDF to investigate complaints of criminal conduct by its forces during Operation Cast Lead, July 2009: The cable reported that “The allegations of criminal conduct by various  organizations such as Human Rights Watch and the  International Red Cross have been persistent since the  conclusion of “Cast Lead” in January 2009.  Individual  Palestinians also testified to IDF abuses such as looting,  beatings, vandalism of property and the use of the local  population as human shields.  But by far the strongest  reverbration [sic] in Israel was that created by the Israeli  organization “Breaking the Silence”, which collected  testimony from 26 unnamed IDF soldiers.  All of the soldiers  had been involved in Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip,  and testified to instances where Gazans were used as human  shields, incendiary phosphorous shells were fired over  civilian population areas, and other examples of excessive  firepower that caused unnecessary fatalities and destruction  of property. The cable added that “On the even [sic] of Operation Cast Lead, the media put out the word that the plan of attack had been so carefully worked out that it would take the troops through the treacherous minefields of international law, a promise that now seems overly optimistic. The Goldstone Comission, the International Red Cross, and Human Rights Watch are all demanding accountability on Israel’s part fo [sic] the 1400 Palestinians killed — according to Palestinian claims — and the enormous damage to civilian property int he [sic] Gaza Strip.” An archive of the cable is also here.
  • An Amnesty International report on Israel’s 2008-2009 assault on Gaza found that Israeli troops have used Palestinian civilians as human shields during their assault on Gaza: “In several cases Israeli soldiers also used civilians, including children, as ‘human shields’, endangering their lives by forcing them to remain in or near houses which they took over and used as military positions. Some were forced to carry out dangerous tasks such as inspecting properties or objects suspected of being booby-trapped. Soldiers also took position and launched attacks from and around inhabited houses, exposing local residents to the danger of attacks or of being caught in the crossfire.” (p.3 of the report). The report was also covered by the Sydney Morning Herald here.
  • Human Rights Watch has also reported on the Israelis military’s use of human shields during Israel’s 2008-2009 assault on Gaza.
  • The Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (2009) concluded from a range of evidence that in a number of instances the Israeli military had used Palestinians as human shields during it’s 2008-2009 assault on Gaza.
  • The Guardian and the BBC have also reported the use of human shields during Israel’s 2008-2009 assault on Gaza.

Human Shields Used by Israeli Military over a Long Period

  • The Israeli military has publicly admitted to having used Palestinian human shields on no less than 1200 occasions between 2000 and 2005.
  • The Israeli’s military’s use of human shields has been documented by a range of media outlets, including Israel media Haaretz,  and Ynet and international media outlets such as the Associated Press, CBS News, the Denver Post, the Guardian (here and here), the BBC.
  • Israeli military veterans group Breaking the Silence have documented numerous uses of human shields by the Israeli military forces.
  • Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem has documented the Israeli’ military’s use at least since 2002 of Palestinian civilians as human shields . B’Tselem report that “The soldiers in the field did not initiate this practice; rather, the order to use civilians as a means of protection was made by senior army officials” and has been formalised through the Israeli military doctrine named the “neighbor procedure”.
  • B’Tselem found the Israeli military had used human shields in their assault on Beit Hanun, in northern Gaza, on 17 July 2006.
  • The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNICEF) released a report in 2013 that found the Israel military had a systematic policy of “continuous use of Palestinian children as human shields and informants”, with 14 such cases having been reported between January 2010 and March 2013 alone.
  • In 2004 the BBC and the Daily Mail reported the Israeli’s military use of a 13 year old Palestinian boy as a human shield.
  • The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights reported the systematic use of human shields by the Israeli military during an assault on the town of Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza from 29 June to 5 August 2004.
  • The Guardian has reported of the Israeli military’s use of human shields in the West Bank Palestinian town of Hebron in 2003.
  • B’Tselem, and both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented the Israeli military’s used of human shields during Israeli assaults on Palestinian cities in 2002.

Lack of Evidence and Widely Discredited Claim by Israeli Military that Hamas uses Human Shields in Gaza

  • Investigations and reports from a wide range of media outlets, including the New York Times, the Independent, the New Statesman, the Guardian, the Electronic Intifada, the Nation have also not found any evidence of Hamas’ use of Palestinian civilians as human shields.
  • Amnesty International’s investigations have also found no evidence that Hamas used human shields during Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza.
  • An Amnesty International report on Israel’s 2008-2009 assault on Gaza found that “contrary to repeated allegations by Israeli officials of the use of ‘human shields’, Amnesty International found no evidence that Hamas or other Palestinian fighters directed the movement of civilians to shield military objectives from attacks. It found no evidence that Hamas or other armed groups forced residents to stay in or around buildings used by fighters, nor that fighters prevented residents from leaving buildings or areas which had been commandeered by militants.” (page 4 of the report). The report was also covered by the Sydney Morning Herald here.
  • Investigations by Human Rights Watch (here and here) into the 2008-2009 conflict between Israel and Hamas found no evidence of Hamas using human shields.
  • The Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (2009) found no evidence that Hamas or other Palestinian armed groups had used Palestinian civilians as human shields, noting that “the Mission found no evidence that Palestinian combatants mingled with the civilian population with the intention of shielding themselves from attack” and “the Mission found no indication that the civilian population was forced by Hamas or Palestinian armed groups to remain in areas under attack from the Israeli armed forces” (see pages 212-122).
  • The Israeli government has made similar untrue claims regarding Hezbollah in Lebanon supposedly having a policy of using civilians as human shields. An in-depth report by Human Rights Watch – based upon forensic evidence as well as multiple verified eyewitness accounts by both Lebanese living in the areas under attack as well as experienced monitors (unaffiliated with any government or political organization) on the ground – which found these claims by Israel to be entirely false. Human Rights Watch investigation found “relatively few cases where Hezbollah might have specifically intended to use the presence of civilians to shield itself from counterattack-certainly not enough to constitute a widespread or systematic pattern.”

See Also: The Dahiya Doctrine, Israeli military doctrine that calls for inflicting massive civilian deaths, and damage to civilian property in an attempt to militarily defeat Hamas, Australians for BDS resource page

See Also: Violence Against Children Australians for BDS resource page

See Also: Attacks on Education and Academic Freedom Australians for BDS resource page

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