Israeli soldiers used a handcuffed Palestinian teenager as a human shield as they fired at protestors in the occupied West Bank village of Abu Dis on Friday.
The incident was witnessed by independent journalist Huthifa Jamous who took photographs. The video footage of the incident was shot by Twitter user @Kate_Arno.
Jamous told The Electronic Intifada by telephone that the incident occurred during a protest in solidarity with hunger striking prisoner Samer Issawi in the village which is adjacent to occupied Jerusalem.
According to the Jerusalem Media Center, Israeli occupation forces opened fire on protestors using tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets and youths responded with stones and empty bottles.
Handcuffed and forced to march down street
Israeli soldiers use a Palestinian teenager as a human shield in the occupied West Bank village of Abu Dis on 19 April 2013.(Huthifa Jamous)
In the video, a group of Israeli soldiers can be seen taking a Palestinian youth, Muhammad R., age 17, out of the back of an armored vehicle and then frog-marching him down the street.
The youth appears to be handcuffed and his hands are held above his head by one of the occupation soldiers. As the soldiers force the teenager down the street, three of them raise their weapons and aim them, apparently at protestors who are outside the frame.
The soldiers then stop, and while deliberately exposing the youth, fire two shots toward the protestors.
Using human shields: a common Israeli war crime
The use of any person as a human shield, especially a prisoner, is a serious war crime, but as B’Tselem reports, Israeli occupation forces have a long history of engaging in this barbaric practice.
In February, Defence for Children International - Palestine Section reported another case where Israeli soldiers kidnapped and then used nine-year-old Mustafa Wahdan as a human shield during a protest near Ofer Prison, where many Palestinian political prisoners are detained.
Because of the near-total impunity Israeli soldiers enjoy for crimes against Palestinians, soldiers are rarely held to account.
In one of the very rare cases were action was taken, two soldiers were tried for using Majid Rabah, then aged nine, as a human shield during Israel’s 2008-2009 invasion of Gaza. The soldiers were found guilty but given a symbolic sentence.
Update, 23 April: Israeli “Border Police” excuses for video of Palestinian used as human shield in Abu Dis debunked
Border Police spokesman Idan Iluz said Saturday that the officers were not using the teen as a human shield, and instead had pulled him out of the jeep in order to show the protesters that the boy had not been harmed.
Iluz said that a rumor had made its way among the demonstrators that the boy had been injured, and as a result they began to react violently, throwing rocks at officers.
He said that not long after the boy was taken out of the car and shown to the protesters, the situation calmed down considerably.
Even if what Idan Iluz says is true, this would not excuse or mitigate the Israelis’ action. The fact remains, and the video shows, that the occupation soldiers deliberately exposed a handcuffed, detained Palestinian civilian aged 17, Muhammad R., to danger.
If the Israeli soldiers did not think there was any danger, then why did they fire their weapons twice while they were parading and exposing Muhammad R.? So there is simply no excuse for their action regardless of their claimed intent.
Rather, the fact that the Israelis are trying to come up with a creative excuse to mitigate the shocking action captured clearly on video indicates an understanding that using human shields is a serious war crime, and one, as the post above shows, that Israeli occupation forces have engaged in habitually.
Moreover, Twitter user @Kate_Arno, who shot the video, provided The Electronic Intifada with this description of the incident which casts further doubt on the Israeli claim:
Two military jeeps arrived at the scene of the demonstration shortly after it began. There were barricades lining the street so those who were above the barricade tried to run down a side street to avoid capture. Three people ran close by the jeep and one, Muhammad was caught. We had not seen him participate in the demonstration before he was captured, unlike the two boys who were running beside him. He was moved into one of the jeeps. Around 10 border police lined the street but trying not to stand in the open.
The protesters, numbering perhaps 100, were standing at least 50 metres furhter down the main road and the side road. From that position it seems unlikely the police would have heard any rumours being spread however, I was in a building and not with the protesters so can not guarantee this.
It also seems unlikely that they would care to quel the protesters fears. It was only 5 minutes later that they went to the car to get Muhammad, brought him near the barricade and then shot two rounds of rubber bullets to the protesters before putting him back in the car.
My initial reaction was that they were using him as a human shield, and a side thought that was that they were using him to threaten others and show that they will arrest people. The protests continued for another 15 minutes and then Muhammad’s jeep returned to the military camp. The other jeep and around 4 soldiers retreated further up the road.
@Kate_Arno also clarified something about the video above, which is comprised of several clips edited together. The incident where Muhammad R. is used as a human shield begins at 1:16. But prior to this, the video shows incidents of Palestinian protestors throwing stones at an Israeli jeep, forcing it to retreat, and another brief clip of clashes.
The Elder of Ziyon blog makes much of this, claiming:
You can see that the IDF even temporarily withdrew from the dangerous stone rioting, as the rioters yelled “Allah Akbar.” This supports the idea that the IDF only returned to show that the youth had been unharmed.
But that is not the actual sequence of events, as videographer @Kate_Arno wrote:
The incident when the protesters made the jeep retreat happened about an hour later after another round of demonstrations had pulled the police back to the barricade. The Elders of Ziyon obviously didn notice that the jeeps are different in both videos and one is facing forwards and the other backwards.
But these details aside, there is no justification for the actions of the Israeli occupiers who deliberately exposed a handcuffed minor to what they would have seen as a dangerous situation as they fired their weapons.