Contextual Content

Gaza war crimes: Use of human shields

Guardian: Three teenage Palestinian brothers made to kneel in front of tanks to deter Hamas attacks Pt.2

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Story Transcript

ALI (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): They made us stand like this. They took our clothes off and cuffed our hands together.

NAFIZ (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): We would hear them firing, and we thought we were about to die.

VOICEOVER: This is the story of three young brothers—Nafiz, Ali, and Al’a—and how they were used as human shields in direct contravention of the laws of war. On January 5, the Israeli Army forced them from their house at gunpoint. This Israeli army magazine, found in the ruins of a destroyed Gazan home, shows Nafiz, who is 16, along with three men, before, he says, he was stripped to his underpants and bare feet and used as a shield for the soldiers.

ALI: Here is Nafiz. Look.

VOICEOVER: It would be 8 days before he was allowed to return home. International law forbids the use of civilians as military shields. It is a war crime. These Israeli soldiers were filmed in 2007 in the West Bank. They are seen shielding behind the Palestinian civilian in the black T-shirt as they go on house-to-house searches. The Israeli military have also used children before. Here in this photograph taken in the West Bank, a boy has been tied to the front of a military jeep. The youngest of the three brothers, Al’a, is just 14.

AL’A: They lined us up on the wall and started to hit us. They took off our clothes by force.

ALI: We watched them set fire to our clothes and our mobile phones.

VOICEOVER: Their mother, Nesrin, watched her sons being taken away.

NESRIN (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): I saw them doing this and I couldn’t control myself. I felt like I had lost my children. A soldier was looking at me and telling me, "You are Hamas!" I said, "No, I am not Hamas! We are just farmers, and you have come to bully us."

VOICEOVER: The Israeli army was searching for Palestinian fighters.

ALI: They started taking us from house to house, using us as human shields.

VOICEOVER: Bound and in only their underwear, the boys were sent into each house to check they were safe for the soldiers to enter.

AL’A: They took us with them because they were scared of getting shot at by the resistance, so if they were shot at, the bullets would hit us and not them.

NAFIZ: They took us into this house. We were blindfolded and our hands were cuffed behind our backs. They kept us inside the house for about fifteen minutes. Then they took us outside and lined us up against the wall and started shooting around us.

VOICEOVER: The houses were searched one by one, then each was destroyed.

ALI: The soldiers kept us in this house before they destroyed it. They took us through there to another house that way.

NESRIN: I didn’t knowanything about the whereabouts of my children. I spent four days not being able to sleep at night. All night I would hold my fourth child. I felt like I had lost the other three, and he was the only one I had left. All night I was hugging him and holding him tight. I felt like it was all over and I’d lost my three children.

VOICEOVER: After using them to clear the houses, the soldiers then marched the boys to a makeshift Israeli camp. The young prisoners were then forced to kneel in front of a line of tanks to deter Palestinian fighters from attacking the camp.

OFF CAMERA (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): There was a tank behind us, and we thought it would drive over us.

NAFIZ: If we even leaned to one side, we were beaten by the soldiers. We couldn’t sleep at all. After being here for a day and a half, they put barbed wire around us. Then empty tank shells kept landing on us and a large piece of shrapnel came flying past us.

VOICEOVER: Ali and Al’a were released into their neighborhood.

NESRIN: When my children came back, I couldn’t believe it. We were hugging and kissing each other. Two of them came back, but the third didn’t. When two of them got back, I thought the third had been killed. What happened to my third child? I asked my son, "Where is your brother?" He screamed but didn’t answer.

VOICEOVER: Nafiz and some of the other prisoners had been taken over the border into Israel.

NAFIZ: They piled us up on top of one another and took us to one of their settlements to be interrogated. The interrogator kept shouting, "We want Hamas!" I couldn’t reason with him. He would just hit me.

VOICEOVER: Nafiz was later taken back to Gaza and released. Israel’s own Supreme Court has ruled against using civilians as shields, declaring that it violates international law. In their defense, the Israeli army has accused Palestinian fighters of using their own people as human shields, but investigations by Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have found no evidence to back up these claims. We asked the Israeli army about their use of human shields in this conflict. They refused to give an interview to the Guardian; instead, they issued this statement: Israeli forces were instructed to make non use for any purpose whatsoever of the civilian population during the combat, and certainly not as ‘human shields’. After an inquiry with the commanders who fought in the area, there is no evidence that such events occurred. Anyone who chooses to accuse the IDF of these acts creates an incorrect and false impression of the IDF and its soldiers, who act ethically and in accord with international law."

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Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.