Israeli soldiers used a 16-year-old Palestinian girl as a human shield, placing her in front of an Israeli military vehicle deployed in the northern occupied West Bank city of Jenin last week, according to information collected by Defense for Children International – Palestine. DCIP records human rights violations against Palestinian children and provides legal services to minors held by the Apartheid State.
Israeli soldiers forced Ahed Mohammad Rida Mereb, 16, to stand in front of an Israeli military vehicle on 13 May around 8am in the Al Hadaf neighbourhood of Jenin while gunfire was being exchanged, DCIP found. The rights group said that Israeli forces ordered Ahed to stand outside the military vehicle for around two hours while they sat inside.
"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."
Describing the moments leading up to Ayed being used as a human shield, DCIP said that occupation besieged her home at 6am in order to arrest her 20-year-old brother. They then ordered Ahed, her parents, and her two younger brothers out of the house and to move to a yard across the street. Israeli forces exchanged fire with Ahed's older brother, who remained in the house. Around 8am, Palestinian gunmen shot heavily toward an Israeli military vehicle, which is when Israeli forces ordered Ahed to stand outside the military vehicle.
"Bullets were being fired at the military vehicle from all directions," Ahed told DCIP. "I was trembling and crying and shouting to the soldiers to remove me because the bullets were passing over my head, but one of them ordered me in Arabic through a small window in the military vehicle, 'Stay where you are and don't move. You're a terrorist. Stand in your place until you say goodbye to your brother.'"
Ahed tried to tilt her head to the side to dodge the bullets, but one of the Israeli soldiers ordered her to stand up straight, according to information collected by DCIP. Ahed stood in front of the Israeli military vehicle for about two hours before running to a nearby tree and collapsing on the ground, according to documentation collected by DCIP.
After clearing Ahed's two-story house, occupation forces bombed it with rocket-propelled grenades, in what appears to be yet another instance of the daily collective punishment to which Palestinians are subjected.
A relic of the British mandate era, collective punishment is one of the most extreme measures that Israel has employed against the Palestinians. After it extended its occupation to the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967, it became a regular practice with punitive house demolitions.
This policy is, by definition, meant to harm people who have done nothing wrong and are suspected of no wrongdoing, but are simply related to Palestinians who have attacked or attempted to attack Israeli civilians or security forces.
Ahed was transferred by private vehicle to Jenin Hospital and was treated for intense mental stress and a severe lack of oxygen, according to documentation collected by DCIP. Her brother had been arrested by then.
Since 2000, DCIP has documented at least 26 cases involving Palestinian children being used as human shields by the Israeli army. The use of civilians as human shields 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.