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
Among the most serious "human shielding" cases documented in Jenin by Human Rights Watch were the cases of four brothers, a father and his fourteen-year-old son, and two other men who were used to shield IDF soldiers from attack by Palestinian militants while the IDF soldiers occupied a large house located directly across from the main UNRWA compound in the camp. In separate interviews with Human Rights Watch, the victims described how they were forced to stand on the balcony of the house to deter Palestinian gunmen from firing in the direction of the IDF soldiers. The Palestinian civilians also described how the IDF soldiers had forced them to stand in front of the soldiers when the soldiers fired at Palestinian gunmen, while resting their rifles on the shoulders of the Palestinian civilians.
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.86http://www.hrw.org/reports/2002/israel3/israel0502-06.htm