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24 Mar, 2009 11:48

Israeli Soldiers ‘used child human shield’ – UN report

Israeli Soldiers ‘used child human shield’ – UN report

UN investigators' reports accused the Israeli military of a number of human rights violations during their operation in Gaza, including using a child as a human shield.

Reuters reports that the papers published by the UN Human Rights Council on Monday called for a full international investigation into the conflict.

One report by Radhika Coomaraswamy, the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict stated that “civilian targets, particularly homes and their occupants, appear to have taken the brunt of the attacks, but schools and medical facilities have also been hit.”

The Sri Lankan human rights lawyer cited a series of accidents to back her allegations, saying the accounts are too numerous to list all. In one episode on January 15, Israeli soldiers forced an 11-year-old boy to walk in front of them for several hours and enter houses as they moved through the town of Tal al Hawa. Shots fired at them didn’t compel them to release the child.

The UN investigator accused the Israeli Defence Force of casually putting Palestinian civilians’ lives at risk and engaging in indiscriminate use of force. She said the soldiers targeted civilian buildings like hospital, schools and water treatment facilities, which resulted in severe deterioration of living conditions in the region. It also called for an end to the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip and the free passage of food, medicine, fuel and construction supplies into the territory.

Coomaraswamy’s report is one of nine accounts by UN investigators into the Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, which lasted from December 27 until January 17. According to the reports, as many as 1,440 Palestinians died in the conflict, including 431 children and 114 women. Israel lost 13 people during the offensive, four of them from friendly fire.

Israel's Ambassador to the UN, Aharon Leshno Yar criticized the 43-page report by Coomaraswamy, saying it “wilfully ignores and downplays the terrorist and other threats we face,” and the use by Hamas of human shields.

More accusations

In a separate report to the UN Council Robert Falk, special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories said Israel had subjected civilians in Gaza to “an inhuman form of warfare that kills, maims and inflicts mental harm.”

The academician, who has been banned from entering Israel last year due to alleged bias and prejudice, called for a throrough investigation into suspected war crimes in Gaza. He suggested gathering an ad hoc criminal tribunal under UN aegis.

A separate report released on Monday was also highly critical of Israel’s actions during the offensive. Physicians for Human Rights said the military violated the Medical Code of Ethics during the operation in Gaza.

The Israeli non-governmental organisation mentions such offences as “attacks on medical personnel; damage to medical facilities and indiscriminate attacks on civilians not involved in the fighting.”