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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 October 2005, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK
Israel bans use of human shields
Israeli soldiers make a Palestinian resident enter a house in Nablus in August 2002
The practice of using human shields is against international law
Israel's supreme court has banned the use of Palestinian human shields in arrest raids, saying the practice violates international law.

The court issued a temporary injunction against the practice in 2002 after a teenager was killed when troops made him negotiate with a wanted militant.

Human rights groups who brought the case say the Israeli army has repeatedly violated the temporary ban.

The army cannot use civilians for its purposes, Israel's chief justice said.

"You cannot exploit the civilian population for the army's military needs, and you cannot force them to collaborate with the army," Aharon Barak said.

Early warning

The court ruled out both the placing of civilians in front of soldiers on operations and as well as an "early warning" procedure employed by the army.

In this practice the army forces local Palestinians to flush out wanted militants by making them approach their homes first and asking them to surrender.

No civilian would refuse a 'request' presented to him at 0300 by a group of soldiers aiming their cocked rifles at him
Soldier's affidavit
The state argued that its rules were necessary to arrest wanted militants and did not endanger Palestinian civilians who - it argued - gave their consent to take part in the operations.

But that was disputed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and the Israeli Arab human rights organisation Adallah, who brought the case.

Adallah submitted an affidavit by one Israeli reservist who said: "No civilian would refuse a 'request' presented to him at 0300 by a group of soldiers aiming their cocked rifles at him."

"It's an important decision, but we need to see if the military will abide by it," said Adallah lawyer Marwan Dallal.

'Pity for the cruel'

The judges decided that under the circumstances it was impossible to properly get the consent of Palestinians.

"In light of the inequality which exists between the apprehending force and the local resident, the civilian cannot be expected to resist the request to pass on an alert," Mr Barak wrote.

A hard-line member of the Israeli Knesset or parliament has criticised the ruling, saying it will hamper the military's anti-terrorism capabilities.

"Supreme court judges demonstrated today that their pity for the cruel will prove cruel to the merciful and will expose [Israeli] soldiers to more danger," said Effie Eitam of the National Religious Party.

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