YNet, 6 July 2010
A series of testimonies in a report probing Operation Cast Lead suggest that IDF soldiers used Gazans as human shields.
The report – exclusively obtained by Ynet – was compiled by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) and Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and focuses mainly on violation of Palestinian prisoners’ rights by the Israeli military during the Gaza war.
Much of the report echoes the findings of the Goldstone Report. Some cases are currently under Military Police investigation, while other cases, whose investigation has been completed, are handled by the Judge Advocate General.
One of the harsher testimonies in the report said IDF soliders used a Palestinian and his minor son as vanguards, forcing them to enter homes, open doors and widows and tear down fences.
Another Palestinian testified that “IDF soldiers cuffed me and three of my brothers and for three days had us walk ahead of them, and made sure we did so at gunpoint. They used us as human shields by ordering us to go into houses ahead of them.
“After we’d go out, they would send in the (bomb-sniffing) dogs and only then would they go inside.”
PCATI and Adalah also review the prisoners’ remand conditions, first in Gaza Strip and later in Israeli prisons. The testimonies recount times when prisoners were kept either out in the open, underground or in over-crowded rooms, and incidents when they were not given enough food or water, or sufficient access to lavatories.
Other testimonies detailed acts of violence against Palestinian detainees and acts of torture during field and Shin Bet interrogations. One Palestinian said that he was deprived of sleep for five days and was cuffed to a chair for days, with the exception of when he ate.
The report criticized Israel’s use of the “unlawful combatant” clause of the International Law, which effectively strips a detainee of any rights reserved for prisoners of war under International Law. The application, said the report, allowed Israel to essentially ignore International Humanitarian Law directives.
The IDF Spokesman’s Unit issued the following statement in response to the report: “Regrettably, the PCATI keeps rehashing allegations which have been heard – and dismissed by the High Court. The claim suggesting the use of the ‘unlawful combatant’ clause has created a new legal status which allows Israel to shirk its obligations under International Law has been categorically dismissed by the High Court of Justice.”
The IDF added that the Military Police has investigated several of the complaints and the findings have been turned over for JAG review.
The matter of detention conditions was still under a General Staff probe.