Since April 2004, there have been 16 reported
cases of Palestinian children being used as
human shields by the Israeli army
Two Israeli soldiers convicted of using a
nine-year old child as a human shield in Gaza
in January 2009, received only a demotion and
3-month suspended sentence on November 1.
During the soldiers’ trial in October, Majid
Rabah said he feared for his life. “I thought
they would kill me. I became very scared and
wet my pants,” he said in an affidavit.
When Israeli troops moved into Tal el-Hawah
on the night of January 14, 2009, Majid’s
family moved to the basement of their
The soldiers from the Givati Brigade shot
through the door separated the men from the
women and children.
Majed said he was hiding behind his mother in
one corner of the basement when a soldier
grabbed him by the shoulder.
“The other soldier dragged me along to
another corner of the basement where there
are two small toilet rooms,” said Majed.
Speaking to Majed in Hebrew, a language Majed
does not speak, the soldiers pointed to two
bags located inside the toilet.
“I didn’t understand what they wanted, but
then I realised that it was because they
thought the bags were going to explode and
they wanted me to open them,” he said. “They
stood outside the toilet, behind a concrete
wall and they made me open the bags.”
Majed said he opened the first bag easily,
finding nothing but papers.
”I could not open the second bag, it was too
difficult. Because the soldiers thought the
bags had explosives, I also thought they were
going to explode. I was shaking and could not
keep my hands still.”
Unable to open the second bag, Majed said one
of the soldiers slapped him in the face, and
then fired two rounds into the bag.
Majid’s mother, Fatma, slammed the sentence
as too lenient.
“It is completely unfair, because it was
supposed to be more than this. Honestly, the
fear that we felt in those moments, the fear
that came after that and the negative side-
effects to the child – [the soldiers] deserve
The two soldiers forced him to open a number
of bags that they suspected contained
The term “human shield” describes the act of
a military group or personnel to either place
civilians around a combat group to deter
enemy fire or to literally shield their
bodies using that of the civilian. Civilians
are usually threatened or physically coerced
into performing these tasks, most of the time
at gunpoint. The practice is illegal under
the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The Israeli military has been accused of
using this tactic since the 2002 attack on
the Jenin refugee camp, despite the Fourth
Geneva Convention, reports of the continued
use of this tactic abound, with multiple
instances reported during the Israeli war on
Following the lenient sentences, Deputy
Speaker of the Knesset, Ahmed Tibi, stated:
“The entire system conveys the message that
the life of an Arab, especially the life of a
Palestinian child, is worth less. It’s no
surprise that up to now, hundreds of
Palestinian children have been killed by the
Israeli army, and it has not led to any
punishments or even condemnation.”
In the latest case documented by Defence for
Children International (DCI) Palestine, a 13-
year-old boy from a village near Nablus, in
the occupied West Bank, was beaten and then
forced at gunpoint to search and open doors
in a house where the army suspected a wanted
person might be hiding.
Since April 2004, DCI-Palestine has
documented 16 cases involving Palestinian
children being used as human shields by the
Israeli army. Fifteen of the 16 cases
occurred after the Israeli High Court of
Justice ruled the practice to be illegal in
October 2005, suggesting that the army is not
effectively implementing the Court’s
decision, or simply disregarding the Court’s