Ramallah, May 18, 2023—Israeli forces have used at least five Palestinian children as human shields so far this year, including two toddlers.
Israeli forces surrounded the Shalloun family home and used four Palestinian children as human shields around 11:30 a.m. for about two hours on March 1 in Aqbat Jaber refugee camp, near the city of Jericho in the occupied West Bank, according to documentation collected by Defense for Children International - Palestine. Israeli soldiers ordered everyone out of the house and demanded that their father, Maher Shalloun, surrender himself. While Maher stayed inside, the others complied and went outside. Israeli forces then threatened his sons Nidal, 9, and Karam, 11, in addition to his twin nephews, Ahmad and Mohammad, both two years old, and forced them to stand in front of Israeli military vehicles while Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters, stun grenades, and live ammunition at Palestinians confronting the group of soldiers.
A fifth Palestinian child, 16-year-old Anas Abdurrahim Kamal Al-Khalili, was used as a human shield in the stairwell above the bakery where he worked by Israeli special forces in civilian clothes the morning of February 22 during a massive Israeli military incursion into Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank, according to documentation collected by DCIP. Israeli special forces forced Anas to stand and walk in front of them for several minutes while handcuffed as they confronted two Palestinian men and fired live ammunition. Before killing the two Palestinian men, Israeli forces forced Anas to sit on the floor of a house next door, blindfolded.
“International law is explicit and absolutely prohibits the use of children as human shields by armed forces or armed groups," said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director at DCIP. “Israeli forces intentionally putting a child in grave danger in order to shield themselves constitutes a war crime.”
While Israeli forces used the Shalloun family as human shields in Aqbat Jabr refugee camp, one soldier ordered mother Samia to put her two-year-old nephew Mohammad on the ground and raise her hands. Mohammad cried as an Israeli military dog approached him, and as Samia lowered her hands to move him away from the dog, the Israeli soldier put his gun to Mohammad’s head, saying, “Move again and I’ll shoot him.”
Mohammad’s twin brother, two-year-old Ahmad, was brought outside by his adult cousin Mohammad. An Israeli soldier instructed Mohammad to lift Ahmad up and hold him in front of the group of Israeli forces. When he tried to lower Ahmad to protect him, an Israeli soldier ordered Mohammad to keep Ahmad raised and threw a stun grenade at his feet. Ahmad cried for the entire two hours.
Samia and Maher’s son, nine-year-old Nidal, was forced to stand directly in the sun amid Israeli soldiers firing stun grenades, tear gas canisters, and live ammunition, aggravating his existing eye infection.
Later, after Samia searched for her eldest son, 12-year-old Murad, who ran to hide at his grandparents’ house next door, Nidal carried his cousin Mohammad to her, both crying, and said a grenade had been next to Mohammad’s head. Israeli soldiers then shot and killed a Palestinian man about 30 meters away, and as Samia tried to calm her children, a soldier pointed his gun at her and said, “I’ll shoot you and your children, as you have seen.”
“My three children cannot sleep normally at night. They wake up now and then and start crying. Nidal’s eye infection has worsened as he stayed under the sun for more than two hours, and I am worried it may affect him in the future,” Samia told DCIP.
The use of civilians as human shields, wherein civilians are forced to directly assist military operations or used to shield armed forces or armed groups or objects from attack, is prohibited under international law. The practice is also prohibited under Israeli law based on a 2005 ruling by the Israeli High Court of Justice.
Since 2000, DCIP has documented at least 31 cases involving Palestinian children being used as human shields by the Israeli army. Last year, Israeli soldiers forced 16-year-old Ahed Mohammad Rida Mereb to stand in front of an Israeli military vehicle in Jenin as armed Palestinians fired heavily in their direction.
All except one case have occurred after the Israeli High Court of Justice ruling. Only one of those cases led to the conviction of two soldiers for “inappropriate behavior” and “overstepping authority.” Both were demoted in rank and given three-month suspended sentences.