Palestinian Stories

Interview with a Human Shield

"In the state of siege, time becomes space
Transfixed in its eternity
In the state of siege, space becomes time
That has missed its yesterday and its tomorrow."
- Mahmoud Darwish -

He speaks to me in his language, arabic, and my translator is the important link in our communication.

He tells me that he was once a human shield. In April, 2002, during the 2nd Intifada, the Isreali military invaded Nablus, bombed parts of the city, killed, arrested and tortured several Palestinians and imposed a thight curfiew on the city.
On the first day of the invasjon, Israeli F16s dropped bombes over the old city of Nablus. He tells me that his aunt was killed in one of the bomb attacks and that he learned about it from the newspaper, since a 23 days curfiew was imposed on the city.
On the third day of the invasion Israeli soldiers came to the door of his parents house, where he was living, and demanded him out in the street, where he was forced to strip in order to be searched. They led him to another house where he was handcuffed and blindfolded. His ID card was taken from him.
They were calling him a 'terrorist' and hitting him in the face and in the stomack. They also used a lighter to burn his face.
Then he was forced to sit in the house with the soldiers and wait. He was forced to sit totally still, without moving, for many hours.
They were shooting around him and he was constantly afraid that they would kill him.
At the following night he was used as a human shield when the soldiers bombed their way from house to house, through internal walls, searching and arresting people. He was forced to accompany the soldiers, entering the houses ahead of them. This was done with the purpose of diminishing the chance that the soldiers would be attacked by armed Palestinians and if attached, the human shield would be the first to be shot at.
This technique was used frequently during the Israeli invasion of cities in the West Bank and Gaza in the 2nd Intifada. It is illegal according to the Forth Geneva Convention. Using civilians as living shields is banned by International Law which classifies it as a War Crime.
Yet, the Israeli army used human shields, thus violating International Law.
The man continues to tell me about how he was treated as a human shield. The soldiers brought him with them in a armoured vehicle to a school which was used as a jail for Palestinians. There were a lot of people there and he was very afraid that the soldiers would shoot him and just leave him there to die.
After a while they brought him to Huwara checkpoint, where the torture continued. The soldiers were hitting and kicking him, in between the interrogation; asking for information of Palestinians who had weapons and were fighting, of which he had non. When he could not give them answers, they continued to kick him. After two days they let him go. He had to walk all the way to the city and was shot at from an Israeli military base overlooking the city. But he managed to hide between houses and to get all the way to the city unharmed. When he arrived in the city centre, some Palestinians were carrying white flags, signalling that they did not want to fight with the military. They wanted a cease fire.
The man arrived in the old city where he discovered that his aunt and uncle's house had been completely destroyed. He was feeling very confused and did not know where to go and what to do. He was suffering the physical and well as mental impact of the torture and abuse that he had experienced.
The Red Cross was there, helping people in this situation and he slept one night in a school they had organised for wounded people.

The man who was used as a human shield tells me that he suffered anxiety for a while following this incident. He had nightmares and was afraid of the dark.
After the invasion, he decided to volunteer at a medical center, helping people injured by the Israelis. This work helped him to forget the trauma he had gone through and he gradually became less afraid of the soldiers. The work gave some meaning to his life.

(February 2009)

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