IDF Continues Using Civilians as Human Shields to Make Arrests  

On the morning of 12 January 2004, IDF soldiers entered the Tulkarm refugee camp and arrested Fatah member Haytham Luwaisi. According to the IDF Spokesperson's Office,
Luwaisi had attempted to commit attacks in Israel. Three days later, the IDF demolished the home in which Luwaisi's family lived. In the course of arresting Luwaisi, the soldiers used Ahmad ‘Asaf, age 33, a resident of the refugee camp, as a human shield. The use of human shields is forbidden by international law and by a High Court of Justice order. IDF operating procedures also prohibit the practice.

‘Asaf told B'Tselem: “He [a soldier] told me that I had to go inside houses that he would identify and open the door and windows and turn on the lights. He told me to tell anyone who was in the houses to go outside with their hands raised over their heads. He told me that if someone refused, I had to come outside and tell him and that if I didn't tell him the truth, he would kill me or
put me in jail."

'Asaf went into one of the houses, and when he came out he told the soldiers that nobody was inside. After soldiers opened fire at the house and hurled a stun grenade inside, the soldiers entered the house. They forced ‘Asaf to accompany them as they searched the rooms in the house. The soldiers used the same procedure with other houses: opening fire, hurling stun grenades inside, and forcing ‘Asaf to accompany them during the search.

At the end of the operation, which lasted about twenty-four hours, the soldiers released ‘Asaf, but not before a GSS agent questioned him. ‘Asaf told B'Tselem that the agent tried to force him to collaborate by threatening his life.

B'Tselem called on the Judge Advocate General's office to open an investigation into the incident.

Human Shield
Ahmad ‘Asaf who was used by IDF Soldiers as a human shield. Photo: B'Tselem

   Soldiers Beat Ambulance Driver and Medic Transporting Patients  

On 18 February 2004, Majdi a-Saruji, age 31, an ambulance driver from the Balata refugee camp, and Jamal Abu Hamdeh, age 30, a medic from Nablus, both employees of the Palestinian Red Crescent, were on their way to a hospital in Ramallah with two patients in the ambulance: an infant heart patient and a person with a broken leg who was in a wheelchair. On their way, the passed three checkpoints, and then encountered an Israeli army jeep parked in the middle of the road near the Ofra settlement. One of the soldiers standing alongside the jeep ordered the ambulance driver to stop. A-Saruji got out of the ambulance, went over to the soldier, and handed over the ID cards of the patients and medical staff in the ambulance. In his testimony to B'Tselem, a-Saruji said: “The soldier looked at our ID cards and then suddenly kicked me, for no reason and without any provocation from me… I went back to the ambulance and sat down in the driver's seat.” The soldier went over to Abu
Hamdeh, ordered him to open the side door of the ambulance, and then ordered them to turn around and go back to where they came from.

Abu Hamdeh asked the soldier how they could go back after the ambulance had already passed three checkpoints along the way, and the soldier replied, “You have a problem?” Abu Hamdeh told B'Tselem what happened then: “I said, ‘No, no.' He punched me hard in the face. He grabbed me and smashed my head against the ambulance… Another soldier kicked me, knocking me over…One of the soldiers kicked me in the back, picked me up, and then all four of them began to kick me in the back, legs, and the rest of my body.” At the same time, the soldiers beat a-Saruji in the neck and legs. The soldiers beat Abu Hamdeh for about fifteen minutes and then detained him for several hours, keeping him handcuffed and blindfolded the whole time. The soldiers ordered A-Saruji to continue on his own and drive the patients to the hospital in Ramallah.

B'Tselem called on the Judge Advocate General's office to investigate this incident.

IDF soldiers searching a Palestinian ambulance
IDF soldiers searching a Palestinian ambulance. Photo: Reuters

   IDF Soldiers Gather and Fingerprint Residents of Two Villages  

In the early morning hours of 25 January 2004, IDF soldiers entered a-Nabi Saleh, a village in Ramallah District. The head of the village council, Bashir a-Tamimi, told B'Tselem that, around 2:00 A.M., soldiers knocked on people's doors and ordered the residents to go to the village square. At the square, all the residents, including small children, were instructed to go to one soldier who recorded the person's name, another soldier who took their photograph, and a third soldier who took their fingerprint on a blank piece of paper. When several young men refused to be fingerprinted on a blank page, the soldiers threatened them with weapons. At the end of the operation, one of the soldiers explained to the residents that the reason for these activities was that people from the village had thrown stones and paint at soldiers. The soldier warned the residents that if those acts continued, the soldiers would take harsher measures. A-Tamimi estimated that the soldiers photographed and fingerprinted about 450 of the 500 residents of the village. He added that, before the operation ended, soldiers took away three youths, who were about 13 or 14 years old. Later, the youths told him that the soldiers had questioned them. One of them said that a soldier had slapped him a few times.

In an incident that took place on 22 September 2003, soldiers forced residents of Sarra, Nablus District, to place their fingerprint on a blank page or on a page with their names and identity numbers. When Ahmad Ghanem asked why the soldiers wanted his fingerprint, one of the soldiers answered that he did not owe him an explanation, and smashed his head against an army jeep. The next day, in a similar incident, a soldier used force in taking the fingerprint of Sidki ‘Awad, a resident of the village. ‘Awad told B'Tselem that, “The commander looked at my ID card and wrote a line or two in Hebrew on a piece of paper. Then he grabbed my finger, put it on the ink pad, and pressed it onto the paper.”

B'Tselem asked the IDF Spokesperson for an explanation of why these activities were carried out and what use will be made of the pictures and fingerprints.