Rassegna Stampa Elezioni Israeliane 2009

Monitoraggio attraverso i media internazionali delle elezioni in Israele del Febbraio 2009

‘Human shields forced into Gaza front line by Israelis and Hamas’

Posted by claudiacampli su 2 febbraio, 2009

Times

One was forced to protect Israeli troops, the other Palestinian militants. A few streets apart from each other, Mahmoud Abed Rabbo and his cousin Magdi say that they were forced to serve as human shields in the battle being waged across their neighbourhood on the eastern outskirts of Jabaliya.

Today the two feel lucky to be alive. They use a similar gesture – slapping one palm against a cheek – to express their disbelief at the willingness of both sides to use civilians as human shields.

Mahmoud, who did not give his real name for fear of retaliation, says that he was forced to remain in his home by Hamas snipers who had taken over his rooftop. Magdi claims that he was held at gunpoint by Israeli troops and forced to act as a go-between with Palestinian fighters. “I cannot believe that anyone, Hamas or Israel, would put so little value on human life and drag civilians into their battlefield,” Mahmoud said. “It is one thing for those who choose to fight, it is another to be forced into it against your will.”

On the morning of January 5 Israeli ground troops began to move into the neighbourhood. Civilians hid indoors, already terrified after more than a week of heavy bombardment. Mahmoud had more reason to be afraid than most: a week before, he had awoken to find Hamas fighters scouting his rooftop as a sniper position. He said that he had asked them to leave but was told that his home had become “part of the resistance”.

“I knew who they were. They were resistance fighters. I did not want them there but they made it clear that this is where they would set up their positions,” he said. “I went downstairs to wake my wife to tell her we would go to her sisters’. But they stopped us. They said we were to stay.”

For the next two days the men insisted that Mahmoud remain downstairs with his family. He said he was told: “If soldiers come, you must send your children to warn us. Tell them there is no one here and we will escape somewhere else.”

He added: “They would not listen when I told them to let my youngest children go, my family. They said no, it must look normal.”

When the Israelis did eventually knock on his door, he told them that only his family was home. He was relieved to find that his words were true. “The young men were gone. Thank God – maybe the soldiers would have killed me if they had found them.”

A little way down the road, Magdi found himself on the other end of the battle. Several hours after the troops moved into the neighbourhood, he heard a knock on the door. He opened it to discover one of his neighbours, flanked by Israeli soldiers. Over the next two days soldiers gathered a number of males from the neighbourhood and forced them to work as human shields, Magdi said.

“There were maybe a dozen of us being used. Different men were doing different things for the soldiers. We were forced to hammer holes through walls, then check rooms to see if there were any fighters.”

Magdi said that soldiers used him for a “special mission” – as a go-between to a group of Hamas gunmen. For more than 24 hours, Magdi said, he was forced to make repeated visits to a residence that the gunmen had converted into a fort. On each trip an Israeli officer told him that the gunmen were “surely dead” and that Magdi should “confirm the kill and bring back their weapons”.

There is no way to verify independently either man’s story. Both Israel and Hamas deny using civilians as human shields and neither would comment directly on the cousins’ account.

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