Israeli forces are reported to have used at least five Palestinian children, including two toddlers, as human shields in 2023. These actions, considered a violation of international law and deemed war crimes, involve coercive tactics against innocent children during confrontations with Palestinians.
One harrowing incident occurred on March 1 in the Aqbat Jaber refugee camp, involving the Shalloun family. Israeli forces surrounded their home, ordered them outside, and threatened the father, Maher Shalloun. Shockingly, two toddlers from the Shalloun family were forced to stand in front of military vehicles while tear gas, stun grenades, and live ammunition were fired in the vicinity.
Similarly, on February 22 in Nablus, 16-year-old Anas Abdurrahim Kamal Al-Khalili became a victim of this egregious practice during an Israeli military incursion. The use of civilians, especially children, as human shields is explicitly prohibited by international law, constituting a grave violation.
Even Israeli law, based on a 2005 ruling by the Israeli High Court of Justice, strictly prohibits the use of civilians as human shields. Despite these legal prohibitions, the Shalloun family experienced traumatic incidents, including threats with a gun to a toddler’s head and the use of a military dog.
The consequences of such actions are severe, with Palestinian children suffering both psychological and physical effects. In the documented cases, children experienced worsened eye infections and trauma due to their forced participation in these dangerous situations.
The Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP) has been diligently documenting such incidents. Shockingly, they have recorded at least 31 cases of Palestinian children being used as human shields by the Israeli army since 2000. This reveals a pattern of disturbing behavior that warrants urgent attention from the international community.
While international law unequivocally condemns the use of children as human shields, the accountability for such actions remains inadequate. Despite the 2005 Israeli High Court of Justice ruling, only one case has led to the conviction of two soldiers for “inappropriate behavior” and “overstepping authority.” The consequences for these convictions were demotions and suspended sentences, raising concerns about the effectiveness of the legal framework in preventing the recurrence of such egregious violations.
The international community must not turn a blind eye to these grave violations of human rights. Urgent steps need to be taken to hold those responsible accountable and to ensure the safety and well-being of Palestinian children caught in the crossfire of conflict. The use of children as human shields is a reprehensible tactic that goes against the principles of humanity and justice, and it is imperative that the world unites to put an end to such practices.