Since the assault on Gaza began, Israeli leaders and their supporters have repeatedly accused Hamas of using Palestinian civilians as human shields in an attempt to absolve Israel of responsibility for deliberately killing more than 1,600 Palestinian civilians in the besieged Gaza Strip.
Despite there being no evidence to prove this libelous claim, it has been unquestioningly echoed in major media outlets and invoked by US officials to blame Palestinians for their own slaughter. It has even been used to justify genocide against Palestinians in a newspaper ad created by anti-Palestinian extremists Shmuley Boteach and Elie Wiesel.
But the available evidence demonstrates that it is the Israeli army, not Hamas, that has been using Palestinians as human shields in Gaza.
In video testimony released by the Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights, which you can watch at the top of this post, Ramadan Muhammad Qdeih recounts how Israeli forces stormed his home in Khuzaa, where some sixty members of his extended family were sheltering in the basement on 25 July, and forced them to act as human shields.
First, the Israeli soldiers shot dead his 65-year-old father Muhammad Qdeih near the entrance of the home as he tried to alert the soldiers to the presence of women and children while carrying a white flag.
Next, says Qdeih, the soldiers forcibly positioned members of his family, including the children, at the windows of his home and proceeded to fire from behind them.
“They ordered us to take off our clothes and tied our hands up,” says Qdeih. “They took us to one of the rooms and used us as shields, making us stand at the windows as if we were looking outside. I was at one window and three children from my family at another. The soldiers then began firing around us.”
For eight hours, Qdeih’s relatives were denied food and water as they were shuffled from one room to another with their hands restrained behind their backs and forced to stand in front of open windows as Israeli soldiers fired from behind their bodies.
Hiding behind children
Qdeih’s family members weren’t the only Palestinian civilians Israeli soldiers hid behind in Gaza. According to Euro-Mid, for five days Israeli forces used a Palestinian teen as their own personal human shield:
In another incident, on 23 July, 17-year-old Ahmad Jamal Abu Reeda says he was restrained by Israeli troops who threatened to kill him. After harshly interrogating and beating him, the troops ordered Abu Reeda to walk ahead of them at gunpoint, accompanied by police dogs, as they searched houses and other buildings. Several times, they demanded that he dig in places they suspected tunnels to exist. Abu Reeda was forced to remain with the Israeli forces for five days.
This procedure is not new. During Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s three-week bombardment of the Gaza Strip in the winter of 2008-2009, Israeli soldiers used an eleven-year-old Palestinian boy as a human shield, forcing him to walk in front of them at gunpoint and enter potentially booby-trapped buildings to check for explosives.
And these are not isolated cases. Israel has a well-documented history of systematically using Palestinian civilians as human shields, particularly children.
From summary executions to deliberately murdering fleeing civilians carrying white flags and using civilians as human shields, there is no shortage of atrocities committed by the Israeli army in Khuzaa, which was completely flattened by non-stop Israeli shelling in what has been described as a massacre.
After visiting Khuzaa and speaking with survivors, Jaber Wishah, the deputy director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, told Gaza-based journalist Mohammed Omer that he believes Israel’s intention was to ethnically cleanse Khuzaa in an effort to split the Gaza Strip in two, north and south, to make it easier to control.
As more information about Israeli criminality in Gaza comes to light, it has become increasingly clear that Israel is spreading lies about Palestinians.
Israel is the one using Palestinian children as human shields. Israelis are the ones celebrating death in Gaza. Israeli officials are the ones declaring a “holy war.” And Israeli leaders are the ones calling for genocide.