This report presents documented cases of Palestinian civilians used as human shields by Israeli military forces during the 51-day conflict in the Gaza Strip, 8 July-26 August, 2014. It also discusses Israeli claims that Palestinian armed factions used their own civilians as human shields.
After interviewing Palestinians who reported being used as shields by Israeli forces, and documenting the testimonies of additional eyewitnesses, Euro-Mid Observer concluded that the Israeli army committed this violation of international law in at least six cases in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip. These civilians were held against their will for hours or days to protect Israeli soldiers from fire, and in the meantime were subjected to inhumane and abusive treatment such as beating, humiliation and exposure to the hot sun while naked for long periods of time.
Israeli authorities deny using Palestinian civilians as human shields. However, the testimonies documented by Euro-Mid prove the lie. Moreover, it seems that using Palestinian civilians as human shields is an Israeli policy, since other, similar cases have been documented in the West Bank.
In contrast, the Euro-Mid team did not find any evidence of Palestinians who were forced to stay in their homes or to use their bodies for the protection for Palestinian resistance factions. Likewise, the Israeli army did not provide any evidence to substantiate their accusations. Moreover, the UN’s Goldstone Report issued following Operation Cast Lead in 2009 exonerated Palestinian armed factions from previous claims by Israeli forces that Palestinians used their own people as human shields.
The use of human shields is a form of cruel and inhumane treatment, and constitutes a flagrant violation of the international humanitarian law and a war crime according to the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court.
Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights calls on Israel's military prosecutors to carry out a serious and reliable investigation of the cases discussed in this report, and to hold the individuals found guilty to account. Euro-Mid also calls on the Fact Finding Committee on the Gaza Conflict recently established by the UN Human Rights Council to make every effort to focus international attention and pressure on all parties found to be guilty of this crime.
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