The Israeli High Court issued a ruling earlier this week barring the army from using Palestinian civilians as human shields, a practice used heavily in the West Bank, particularly since the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada or uprising in 2000.
On Tuesday, Israeli military sources said the army would press the High Court to reconsider the ruling on the ground that it would complicate “army activities” in the West Bank.
The army has sought to downplay the gravity of the “human shield practice”, describing it as a “generally innocuous early warning procedure”.
The Israeli press has quoted Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz as saying that he will personally seek to convince the justices of the High Court of the correctness of the army’s view in this regard.
The occupation army has further argued that the practice actually saves (Jewish) lives and that banning it entirely would inflict more casualties on the Palestinians themselves as the army would be forced to bombard and destroy entire buildings where “wanted persons” are barricaded.
Shaul Mofaz will seek to convince
Palestinian and foreign human-rights groups operating in the West Bank have dismissed the army’s contention as “a desperate attempt to put a good face on an ugly practice”.
“They want to kill us and tell the world that they are dong it for our own interests,” said a spokesperson of the Palestinian Centre of Human Rights in Ram Allah.
The spokesman said scores of innocent Palestinians were killed as they were being used as human shields during Israeli army operations in the West Bank.
Meanwhile, a top UN human rights official has charged Israel with deliberately impeding the work of human-rights activities in the occupied Palestinian territories.
A UN official said Israel impedes
The official, Hina Jilani, who has ended a visit to Palestine and Israel, said Israel was making the work of human-rights activists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as hard as possible.
“In stark contrast to the relative openness that the government allows for NGOs based in Israel, the human-rights defenders in the occupied Palestinian territories operate under conditions that are absolutely incompatible with the international norms and standards of human rights.”
Jilani described Israeli actions as “responsible for creating an environment that is totally non-conducive for human rights defenders to conduct their work with facility and safety”.
Jilani said that while she was aware of Israeli security concerns, she was also fully conscious of the vulnerability of the Palestinian population which is more severely threatened and eroded by the practices of the Israeli occupation.
“They want to kill us and tell the world that they are dong it for our own interests”
Palestinian Centre of Human Rights spokesperson
Israel rejected Jilani’s report, which will be submitted to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan later this month.
Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said Israel was doing everything to facilitate the work of human-rights activists in Israel proper as well as the occupied territories.
“We pride ourselves on the fact that Israel’s human-rights safeguard are of the highest international standards,” he said.
Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Israel’s own B’tselem have issued damning reports indicting Israel for killing and maiming hundreds of innocent Palestinians and destroying thousands of innocent people’s homes over the past five years.