Timeline of events

1 Jan 2011
  • April 2002 - During Operation Defensive Shield, soldiers greatly increase the use of Palestinians as human shields.

  • May 2002 - Seven human rights organizations petition the High Court of Justice against the use of Palestinians as human shields. The IDF informs the court that it will stop using civilians for military tasks, except for the "neighbor procedure".

  • August 2002 - Nidal Abu Mukhsan is killed while serving as a human shield during implementation of the "neighbor procedure." Following another petition filed by the human rights organizations, the court issues a temporary injunction forbidding the IDF to use the procedure. Soldiers continue to use it.

  • November 2002 - B'Tselem publishes a report that describes five cases in which soldiers violated the court's order. The petitioners file an application in accordance with the Contempt of Court Ordinance.

  • December 2002 - The State files its response to the Court, in which it contends that the army is no longer using Palestinians as human shields but only “is assisted by residents to prevent the loss of life.” The State attaches the “prior warning procedure,” which is intended to replace the “neighbor procedure.” According to the new procedure, “assistance” by civilians is allowed if, in the judgment of the military commander in the field, the life of the “person giving assistance” is not endangered, provided that the individual consents. In reply, the human rights organizations contend that the new procedure is unlawful and that it is incorrect to state that such “assistance” does not endanger the person's life. The petitioners include testimonies relating to cases in which civilians were used as human shields after the High Court issued the temporary injunction.

  • January 2003 - The High Court of Justice reduces the temporary injunction, and allows use of the “prior warning procedure.” At the request of the High Court, the human rights organizations file a legal opinion stating that the procedure is unlawful. The IDF has not yet responded to the petitioners' arguments. In the meanwhile, it implements the “prior warning procedure”.

  • July 2003 - The High Court hears the petition of the human rights organizations, in which the parties argue the legality of the “prior warning procedure” and the application to hold the respondent in contempt of court, which was filed after the IDF continued to use human shields. The High Court extends the validity of the temporary injunction until further order.

  • April 2004 - The human rights organizations file an application with the High Court for a temporary order directing the IDF to refrain from using Palestinians as human shields and/or hostages, and to forbid the IDF from asking them to take part in any military action, or to use them in any such action, without exception and without army officials having any discretion in the matter. The petitioners attach testimonies and affidavits relating to additional cases, dating from December 2003 to April 2004, in which civilians were used as human shields.

  • August 2004 - On 16 August 2004, Adalah files an application requesting that the Court order the IDF, in accordance with the Contempt of Court Ordinance, to comply with the High Court's order prohibiting it from using individuals as human shields or hostages in military operations. The application also requests that the High Court impose a fine on the military authorities.

    In its application, Adalah contends that the IDF is continuing to violate the High Court prohibition on the use of human shields. Attached to the application are eight new testimonies, which were given to B'Tselem, involving cases in which the IDF used Palestinians as human shields or hostages between the period January-July 2004.

  • September 2004 - On 5 September 2004, the High Court hears the petition filed by Adalah in May 2002 against the use of Palestinians as human shields or hostages. Supreme Court President Aharon Barak criticizes the “prior warning procedure,” which replaced the “neighbor procedure,” and urges the IDF to forego use of the procedure, on the grounds that the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the use of local residents in military actions by the occupying army. In his comments, President Barak says that, “Out of one hundred cases in which the neighbor willingly helps the army, ninety-nine of them will be against his will. It is very hard to verify willingness, and the fear is that, when a contingent of soldier come at night, out of fear no neighbor will refuse to cooperate with the soldiers.” The High Court announces that it will give it decision at a later time.

  • October 2005 - On 6 October 2005, the High Court of Justice rules that it is illegal for the IDF to use Palestinian civilians during military actions and that it is forbidden to use the prior warning procedure.

  • 2007 - Despite the High Court's decision and army orders preceding and following it, security forces continue to use Palestinians as human shields. In 2007, B'Tselem documented 14 such cases. For example, in February, soldiers forced two Palestinian minors, aged 11 and 15, to accompany them in combing houses and opening the doors to the houses and the rooms. In July, a 14-year-old girl from Beit Hanun, in the northern Gaza Strip, was shot in the leg and stomach when soldiers used her as a human shield. The organization wrote to the Military Advocate General Corps, demanding an investigation into each of the cases. B'Tselem’s monitoring indicates that a Military Police investigation was opened in 13 of them: in two of the cases, the investigation is continuing; in seven cases, the file was closed; and four were transferred to a military advocate for a decision whether to file charges.

  • October 2007 - The Judge Advocate General decides not to prosecute the commander of IDF forces in the West Bank, Brig.-Gen. Yair Golan, who in five cases ordered use of the “prior-warning procedure.” The JAG suffices with a light disciplinary punishment. This decision transmits a message of contempt for Palestinian life and the High Court.
  • During the course of Operation Cast Lead, which took place in Gaza in January 2009, B'Tselem and other organizations were informed of cases in which soldiers used Palestinians as human shields. In one case, two soldiers were prosecuted for ordering a nine-year-old boy gunpoint to open a bag that they suspected was booby-trapped. The two were given a three-month conditional sentence and demoted from staff sergeant to private.