Speaking this morning as Israeli forces continue a new ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu described the IDF as “a moral army like no other”. He added: “those responsible for the damage to uninvolved civilians are the Hamas, and Hamas alone, who use civilians as human shields.”
It is a familiar refrain. But in fact, it is the Israeli military itself that turns Palestinians into ‘human shields’, and strips them of their protected status under international law.
In the aftermath of ‘Operation Cast Lead’, Israeli newspaper Haaretz published an article on the legal advice given to the country’s armed forces by the international law division (ILD) of the Military Advocate General’s Office.
Addressing the subject of IDF-issued warnings to Gaza residents, including the so-called ‘knock on the roof‘ tactic seen in ‘Operation Protective Edge’, a senior ILD figure made the following, disturbing admission.
The people who go into a house despite a warning do not have to be taken into account in terms of injury to civilians, because they are voluntary human shields. From the legal point of view, I do not have to show consideration for them. In the case of people who return to their home in order to protect it, they are taking part in the fighting.
In other words, the Israeli military strips Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip of their protected status under international law, labelling them ‘voluntary human shields’. In the same article, an ILD official justified targeting Gaza’s “entire governmental infrastructure”.
As Israel deliberately targets family homes, and the death toll rises, this is an important additional insight into the tactics being used by the Israeli army in its bombardment of the Gaza Strip. It is also further evidence of war crimes.