IDF soldiers in Jenin engaged in the practice of human shielding, forcing Palestinian civilians to serve as "shields" to protect them from Palestinian militants. The practice of human shielding is specifically outlawed by international humanitarian law. The in inappropriate use of civilians for other military purposes was also widespread during the IDF operation in Jenin. In almost every case where IDF soldiers entered civilian homes in the camp, the residents told Human Rights Watch that the IDF soldiers were accompanied by Palestinian civilians.
Article 28 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states: "The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations." The authoritative Commentary refers to this provision in the following terms: "During the last World War public opinion was shocked by certain instances (fortunately rare) of belligerents compelling civilians... to serve as a protective screen for the fighting troops. The prohibition is expressed in an absolute form and applies to the belligerents' own territory as well as occupied territory, to small sites as well as wide areas."81
Use of Palestinian Civilians as Human Shields
Imad Gharaib, aged thirty-four, was one of the four brothers. On Saturday, April 6, at about 6:00 a.m., a group of thirty to forty IDF soldiers entered the Gharaib family home, and forced the Gharaib brothers to walk in front of them as they searched the home. One of the IDF soldiers abused Imad, beating him with his rifle and threatening to shoot him if he did not reveal where he had hidden his gun (Imad said he does not possess a gun):
He asked me if I had any guns. I said, "No, I am only here with my family." He started beating me with the back of his gun, hitting me many times, insisting that I had a gun. ... He [then] threatened to shoot me and put the gun to my face. Then he moved the gun a bit and shot the television.82
After the soldiers had inspected the home, they tied the men up and, half an hour later, walked them over to a large neighboring house in which the IDF had set up a temporary base; the house was located directly across from the main UNRWA compound. The men were forced to stand outside, facing the Palestinian gunfire:
They ordered us to walk in front of them.... There was some shooting at the [IDF] soldiers [by Palestinian militants higher up in the camp.] They started pushing us and brought us down to another house. There, they put us on the veranda where we could be seen [by the Palestinian gunmen]. The soldiers were sitting inside the salon. We were facing the shooting, the soldiers did this to protect themselves. We could be clearly seen-if the fighters saw us they would not shoot.83
Kamal Tawalbi, a forty-three-year-old father of fourteen children, and his fourteen-year-old son were also taken to the same house and forced to stand facing the Palestinian gunfire. The IDF soldiers also placed them at the windows and forced them to stand in front of the soldiers as the soldiers shot at Palestinian gunmen in the camp:
They took me and my son. They put me in one corner and [my son] in the other corner [of the balcony]. The soldier put his gun on my shoulder. I was facing the soldier, we were face to face, with my back to the street. Then he started shooting. This situation lasted for three hours. My son was in the same position-he was facing the soldier, the soldier had his gun on his shoulder, and was shooting.84
The soldiers also treated Kamal Tawalbi and the other men with cruelty. During his interview with Human Rights Watch, Kamal Tawalbi-who had been taken from his home by the IDF soldiers while his home was burning from a helicopter strike-broke down in tears as he recounted how the IDF soldiers had tried to make him believe that his family had been killed while he was in custody:
I heard the noise from my family, I was very worried. Then, another missile hit the house. I started screaming, "My children, my children!" [One of the soldiers] said, "Shut up, because your family is dead, the house collapsed on them." He was a Bedouin from Beersheva, his name was Yusi. I started crying after this. When Yusi saw I was crying, he kicked me in the leg-he stomped on my foot and hurt it badly.85
Both men recalled how the soldiers had forced the men to lie face down on a floor covered with broken glass, and had tied their hands painfully tight behind their backs with plastic handcuffs. The men were then arrested and taken to a military camp for interrogation, and subsequently released at the village of Rumanah.
Faisal Abu Sariya, a forty-two-year-old schoolteacher, also was used as a human shield by the IDF and forced to carry out dangerous tasks. Soldiers entered Abu Sariya's home on the second day of the Israeli incursion, at about 4:00 a.m. on Thursday, April 4, accompanied by Abu Sariya's neighbor:
Early, at 4:00 a.m., my daughter woke me and told me there were some people at the door. I opened the door and one of my neighbors, Arafat, told me the soldiers had sent him to tell me that the soldiers were behind my home and wanted us all to go into one room of the house.86
Abu Sariya went back inside his home, woke up his family and made all of them go to one room. The soldiers then entered, and asked Abu Sariya's twelve-year-old son to enter the various rooms of the house and open all the dressers inside. A soldier set up a position at one window, and then kicked over the television that was in his way. The next morning, the soldiers ordered Abu Sariya to accompany them:
The next morning they told me to join them. I asked them, "Am I wanted [for arrest]? Are you taking me to jail?" He said he just wanted me to go next door and they would release me. My wife and children were crying, begging them to release me.87
For the next two days, Abu Sariya was coerced into accompanying the soldiers, to enter homes even before the IDF soldiers sent in their bomb-sniffing dogs, and to march in front of the soldiers as they moved in the streets of Jenin refugee camp:
They pointed a house out to me. They said, "Go knock on the door, tell all the people to go in one room, and come back." I knocked on the door and there was no answer. They put a small bomb the size of a pack of cigarettes on the door and opened it. They ordered me to go inside. I checked and found no one inside. Then they asked me to go out and sent in the dog. Then, when the dog came back, they went inside....
Then we went to another house. Whenever they wanted to move, [a soldier] would grab me by the collar, put me in front of him, and move like this. They used me like this between houses-in case there was some shooting, I would die first.
I asked them, "Please release me, you promised me [to go to] just one house, let me go." At least five times a day I would ask them. They would always say that they would release me once they found a substitute.88
On Saturday, April 6, after two days with the soldiers, Abu Sariya was ordered to go knock on the door of a home by the soldiers, while the soldiers hid themselves on the opposite side of the street. As he ran across the street, another group of IDF soldiers located on the roofs overhead opened fire on Abu Sariya and seriously wounded him in the leg. The two groups of IDF soldiers then began arguing. Rather than taking the seriously wounded Abu Sariya to the hospital, the soldiers provided him with some first aid-bandaging the wound-and then ordered four Palestinian youngsters to carry him away. Unable to reach the hospital, the Palestinian youngsters were forced to leave Abu Sariya at a private home in the Hawashin/Damaj area of the camp. Abu Sariya was forced to stay four more days without medical treatment, unable to leave because of snipers in the area, until IDF soldiers announced on Tuesday, April 9, that everyone in the area had to leave their homes.89
Aziz Taha, aged twenty-six, was arrested from his house in al-Dahab district on Sunday, April 7, at approximately 2:00 p.m., when IDF soldiers burst through a hole they had bored in the wall from his neighbor's garden. Blindfolded, his hands were tied with plastic ligatures before he was pushed back through the hole in the wall the way they had come. He was put on the veranda and his blindfold was taken off; he faced up the hillside into the camp. He took Human Rights Watch to the location and explained what had happened to him.
Aziz Taha was then taken through a maze of interconnected houses, eventually reaching an assembly point on the western edge of the camp. The soldiers arresting him forced him at gunpoint to walk ahead of them, particularly when crossing exposed alleys or in other vulnerable positions. On multiple occasions, there were firefights and Aziz Taha was caught in the crossfire. Aziz Taha retraced his steps together with Human Rights Watch, pointing out the route burrowed through neighbors' houses and places where he was beaten. Retracing the steps through holes bored in the walls, the houses' inhabitants pointed out the extensive damage and vandalism that had been done by the soldiers.
Aziz showed Human Rights Watch one alley where he was particularly exposed during a battle:
He made me walk alone up the alley, to the left. Then as we came around the corner, the soldier hid. Shooting came from above, I don't know who was firing. During this time he made me stand in front of a house, for fifteen minutes the battle was going on and the soldier was hiding.90
In Lutfi Badawi's house, again Aziz was made to stand on a terrace, exposed to the north to fire coming from the lower part of the camp near the UNRWA building. "There was shooting, it was coming towards me but I don't know from where."
The entire journey, a mere 500 meters as the crow flies, took Aziz and the soldier twelve hours. When he reached the western edge of the camp with the soldiers, Aziz Taha was forced to take off his clothes and was severely beaten.
I was in my underwear, nothing else. They put me in a house and let me sit down. They made fun of me, spit on me, and starting asking me questions, but when I answered they would just mock me. While I was there, one soldier urinated on me, he cursed at me, but this is nothing, because then he did more. I have nine scars on my legs, so when I stripped they saw them and said you were fighting two months ago, although the scars were much older. They started beating me then with something metal, it was very painful. They also used the plastic ligatures they were using as handcuffs. They [tied a bunch of them together into a whip] and used them to beat me on the soles of my feet.91
Aziz Taha was then transported to Salem, where he was detained for four days before being released in Rumana village.
Sixty-five-year-old Lutfiya Abu Zeid told Human Rights Watch that IDF soldiers twice took her from the room where she was taking shelter to use her as a human shield. The first time was at approximately 5:00 p.m. on April 6, when they made her go with them and open doors as they checked a neighboring house. They returned at about 9:00 p.m. the same day; Lutfiya had just started to pray. "The soldier said come here and I said, who me? He said yes." The soldiers took her by her shoulders and held her in front of them as they exited the house and were joined by other soldiers. They took Lutfiya onto the roof and left her in plain sight as a battle began.
About forty soldiers had come into the [courtyard], they were wearing goggles so that they could see at night, it was scary, like they were going to go swim. They took me to the stairs up to the new house, it isn't finished yet. I said I was really scared, that I couldn't walk. They put me on the roof, and [entered that house through the wall]..... They started an attack, and I felt like I should go home. Every five minutes there was a rocket, they didn't care what they were shooting. They were in a house, the neighbors' house, but they left me where the helicopters could see me, but they were safe. I stayed there for about 10 minutes, and then I got scared and left.
The soldiers did not object when Lutfiya went back downstairs.92
Muhammad Qataish, aged twenty-four, lived near the camp entrance, above the government hospital. At about 4:30 p.m. on Friday, April 5, Qataish and his family were sheltering from helicopter and other fire in the living room of his house. IDF soldiers broke down the back door and entered the house. In response to the soldiers' orders, Qataish raised his hands, then lifted his shirt and pulled down his trousers. He was then ordered to search the house, room by room at gunpoint. Qataish was then ordered to search the neighboring house, his uncle's, the same way. After they had finished, all the young men were taken out of the house and lined up against a wall.
Qataish and his brother Khaled thought the soldiers were going to arrest them. To their surprise, the soldiers took them both onto the street, and formed one line of soldiers behind each brother. Qataysh told Human Rights Watch:
We were lined up along the street, Khaled and myself, each with a line of soldiers behind us. One soldier was resting his M16 on Khaled's right shoulder. I was on Khaled's right. They marched us from the house, along Hawakeen Street, into the middle of the camp, the Hawashin area. They did not say a word. Khaled asked them where we were going. The soldier said, "If you make any noise, we'll shoot you! It was about 4:30 p.m. There were about twenty to twenty-five soldiers with us."93
After walking approximately twenty minutes, the soldiers stopped them at a house on the edge of the Hawashin district. After attempting to force Khaled and then Qataish to enter the house, the soldiers were then fired upon by armed Palestinians. After an exchange of fire the soldiers withdrew, but took the brothers with them. Back near his father's house the soldiers kicked Qataish and beat him with their rifle butts before taking the brothers into detention. The two brothers remained in detention for four days, during which they were fed once.
In a separate interview with Human Rights Watch Muhammad (not his real name), a Palestinian militant who participated in the fighting, corroborated Qataish's account. "The Israelis were in a trap, we could have killed them. But we would have had to kill the boys too. Their brother was with us and begged us not to. We had the chance to kill the twenty-five soldiers, but we did not."94
In an interview with the New York Times, a group of Israeli soldiers in Jenin admitted that they had used Palestinian civilians to shield themselves from attack by Palestinian gunmen. "Yes, because of the snipers [we used Palestinian civilians]," one of the soldiers stated, "If the sniper sees his friend there, he won't shoot." A soldier also told the New York Times that they had used Palestinian civilians to open the doors of homes out of fear of booby-traps: "We had a soldier who opened a door and was killed by a booby-trap that went off in his face. We let them [Palestinian civilians] open the door. If he knows it is booby-trapped, he won't open it."95
Use of Palestinian Civilians for Military Purposes
IDF soldiers forced Ibrahim Abu Ra`id, aged fifty-one, to accompany them for seven days, from Friday, April 5, until Thursday, April 11. Abu Ra`id explained how the soldiers had forced him to do some of the most dangerous work during the operation:
They took me because I spoke Hebrew. I was with eighteen soldiers. They asked me to walk in front of them [in the streets]. They asked me to knock on the doors because they were afraid of booby-traps. So they would hide behind the walls and make me knock on the door.
They made me knock on the doors. If there was no answer, they gave me a heavy crowbar to break the locks. If I couldn't break the locks, they would explode it. After the explosion, they asked me to go inside first. After I was inside for five minutes, they would come inside. [That way,] in case an explosion happened, only I would be inside.
When I entered inside, they would ask me, "Open this cupboard, open this door, check this room." I would do the inspection for them. They touched nothing, but would order me to do it. Only after I had opened everything did they start searching. ...
I told them that it was too dangerous to do this work. So they kept promising, "OK, just work for us today and we will release you," but they kept making me do this work. They made me do it by force, I had no choice.98
Fifty-five year old Kamal Abu Salim was taken to open shops for soldiers after he fled his house in Hawashin in the early morning hours of April 8, as the bulldozers were approaching. The soldiers separated the men of the family out and detained them. "When we left, they took the men and made us take off our clothes, and then threatened to shoot me. We were four, me, my brother, brother in law and 17-year old son. They made me take off my clothes, and wanted me to show them the chicken shop down the road, they said to enter and open all the doors inside." They walked to the neighboring Abu Nasr district, and although the others were allowed to sit down, Kamal was taken aside to open the shops for the neighbors. He was fired upon by the soldiers. "When I went to do it he started to shoot me, between my legs. He said I was a terrorist, he just wanted to frighten me, I guess.... At the chicken shop, I had to open three doors of three shops there."99 Afterwards, the men were taken to the edge of the camp and detained briefly before being released.
Tariq Fayid was arrested on April 5 from his house in Dahab quarter, the southwest hilltop area of camp. That day, soldiers entered and first came to Fayyed's house with his thirty-seven year-old neighbor Khaled, who called out that there were soldiers with him and that they should all come out. They were detained for about two hours and then sent home. The following day, Sunday April 6, Tariq Fayid was again arrested after soldiers, preceded by a local Palestinian, came to the door. He and his cousin were separated.
They took us to a house where some other men were who had been arrested. We were blindfolded, everyone was the same, and we were asked to turn to the wall. We had to kneel against the wall, handcuffed behind our backs, and were beaten with weapons. They asked who spoke Hebrew, and I said I did a little, because I wanted to find out about my wife and sons. They took me ... to open three houses. They took off the blindfold, but my hands were still tied in front of me. They asked me to enter houses where they hadn't been. They asked me to go in and open all the doors and windows. They just looked at the house, then told me to go to the next one, they just watched. And they would tell people to get out of the houses and then I had to go in front of the to check the houses.... Every group of soldiers had a map. The houses were numbered, and when they were finished, they would mark that on their map.100
Tariq was held for three days in a house in the neighborhood with thirty-five other men. On Tuesday April 9, he and the others were taken to the western edge of the camp. There, he was severely beaten:
They pulled me by the beard, threw garbage at me. They threw us on the ground and then drove a tank up to us, as if it was going to run us over, before turning around at the last minute. It wasn't at all safe. Some of the others were beaten badly, some were beaten so much they were unconscious. They beat me too, and they walked on top of me, they made me lay on the floor and walked on our heads.101
Israeli soldiers entered the home of the elderly Raja Tawafshi at about 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 3, and shot dead his elderly neighbor, Ahmad Hamduni (see above). After the killing, the soldiers ordered Raja Tawafshi at gunpoint to walk in front of them while they searched the home:
The soldier told me to go out. He put the gun on my back and they searched the house, pushing me in front of them. Around thirty soldiers came in, they searched all the rooms. Then they took me upstairs and started inspecting those rooms. I was still in the same situation, in front of them with the gun in my back. After they finished inspecting the second floor, they asked me to go with them to the third floor.102
After searching the home, the IDF soldiers tied Raja Tawafshi to a chair for the night. The next morning, they again forced the elderly man to accompany them on searches of nearby homes:
[In the morning,] they freed me and asked me to stand up. They took me to my neighbor's house for inspection. I was in front of them and they told me to knock on the door. I told them no-one was home. Then, they broke the door with an iron ramrod and got inside. For four houses, I was in front of them of them to inspect the houses. Then I told them, I can't go anymore because I am tired.103
Sa`id Abu `Anas, aged thirty-four, lived in the Hawashin area of the Jenin refugee camp, and was sifting through the rubble of his demolished home when he spoke to Human Rights Watch. He explained that a group of Israeli soldiers came to the house of his neighbor, where fifty-three people were staying, on Saturday, April 6, at about 10:00 a.m. and ordered the men to go outside:
They tied us up and made us go open the doors of the homes. The soldiers took me and ordered me to open a door. I tried to open the door, but couldn't. I then told them that I didn't want to [continue trying], that I have a heart condition and the door was too tough. They told me to rest for a minute [and used a bomb to open the door.]104
Twenty-nine-year-old Asmahan Abu Murad was also ordered by the soldiers to go knock on her neighbor's home. When they had come to Abu Murad's home earlier in the day, the soldiers had similarly been accompanied by a neighbor who had been ordered to knock on their door. Before Abu Murad had a chance to knock on her neighbor's door, the soldiers had blown off the door, killing fifty-two-year-old `Afaf Disuqi who had come to open the door.105
On April 10, Lina Sa`adiya and her mother were in a house near the government hospital. Fighting had dwindled, and two young armed Palestinians whom Lina had previously seen fighting came unarmed to sleep in the house. The next morning a nearby soldier heard Lina's mother crying out in her sleep, and ordered the inhabitants outside. The two men carried Lina's paralysed mother outside. A group of IDF soldiers stripped and bound them, and made them lie on the ground before taking them back into the house. Three dogs accompanied the IDF soldiers.
Lina and her mother were ordered into the neighboring bedroom.
The soldiers had three dogs. It sounds like they let the dogs at the captured men. I did not see it, but I heart the boys screaming and shouting, and one saying he was bleeding. They [the soldiers] shouted and cursed and the boys and asked if there were more resistance fighters.106
Lina did not understand the entire conversation, since the soldiers were speaking in Hebrew, but she heard several shots fired in the room next door and the sound of the captured men asking the soldiers to stop. Lina understood the soldiers wanted the captured fighters to lead them on their search through the houses.
One of them was crying, saying his feet were bleeding and asking them to take him to hospital. That was after the soldiers had asked them. At first the resistance boys refused, but then the boys went to take them. They did not want to go with the soldiers because they thought the other young men would think they were IDF soldiers and shoot them. They said, "It is better if you shoot us now." But the soldiers scared them with the dogs and by shooting into the walls, the boys went. I heard the soldiers outside saying, "OK, now into the other room, now into this room." This is how I know they went.107
In addition to the cases documented by Human Rights Watch, the practice of using civilians to assist military personnel and operations in Jenin has been widely reported on by the international media. For example, in an Associated Press story about the earlier Human Rights Watch report on the IDF use of civilians, the reporter added:
The Associated Press witnessed such an incident this week in Jenin refugee camp. A young boy who had been guiding reporters through the camp was detained by soldiers and he later said he had been forced for three hours to knock on unknown houses. He said that only after he had entered the houses were sniffer dogs sent in and then soldiers entered.108
[p]rotected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honor, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs. They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof and against insults and public curiosity.
For a more extensive discussion of IHL and the use of civilians during military operations, see Human Rights Watch, "In a Dark Hour."