Philip Weiss notes these claims about the circumstances surrounding the alleged killing on Sunday of 60 Palestinians from one extended family:
Two: Israeli soldiers rounded up the inhabitants of the multi-story house, locked them in one room for a day, and bombed it the following morning.
I don’t believe the first claim, about simply taking men out and shooting them. Even with Israel systematically excluding the international press from the Gaza Strip (except in a highly controlled, “embedded” capacity) it would be impossible to keep an incident of that magnitude quiet, and any soldier contemplating it would know it.
On the other hand, there are elements in the second claim that sound quite plausible if you know how the IDF uses Palestinian civilians when operating in built-up areas. Throughout the second intifada, Israeli soldiers in the Occupied Territories have regularly taken over civilian housing – preferably high-rise – for stationing observation positions and sniper teams, and forced the Palestinian families living there to stay in the house while the operation is conducted, in order to discourage Palestinian militants from returning fire. For example:
An IDF force broke into Mahmoud Rajabi's home in the Jabel Johar neighborhood in eastern Hebron at about 4 A.M. last Wednesday and forced three brothers to serve as human shields. Some 15 soldiers, armed with rifles, machine guns and observation equipment, took over the fourth-floor apartment where the 16 members of the Rajabi family live, at least half of them minors... Family members said the soldiers ordered most of them to leave, but held three of Rajabi's sons - Nabil, 30, Raja'ai, 19 and Najah, 13 - captive in the apartment. The three were used as human shields during the soldiers' stay, against their will...
At first, the IDF spokesman denied that the three brothers were being held against their will and said they could leave whenever they wanted. But the force's commander told Haaretz that they were holding the three until the operation ended. Apparently unaware of the IDF's obligation under the High Court decision not to use civilians as human shields, Liron said it was normal procedure intended "to protect his soldiers' lives." He was also unaware of the IDF Spokesman's denial that the three were being held until the end of the operation...
The IDF has said in the past that it obeys the court ruling and denied that such means are still in use.
The Israeli army has been accused of using Palestinian civilians as human shields in an operation in northern Gaza.
According to the Israeli human rights group, B'tselem, six civilians including two minors were subjected to the illegal tactic during an incursion into the town of Beit Hanoun last week...
The three brothers were blindfolded, says Hazem, and their hands tied behind their backs... He shows me where the soldiers positioned them: outside the entrance to his flat on the third floor, in the stairwell, facing down the steps. "I think they put us here because they were expecting suiciders to come into the flat because none of the soldiers were on the stairs - they were all inside the flat. They put us here so we'll be shot first."...
"This was a very blatant violation of the prohibition of the use of human shields," Yekhezel Lain, [research director with the Israeli human rights group B'tselem] tells me. "It was just soldiers hiding behind the back of civilians who were held with force in their homes."
B'tselem says it is investigating reports of other, similar incidents in Gaza during the past month.
Yesterday I noticed this snippet of information tucked away in an AP report of events that took place Monday, suggesting that the IDF is using the same procedure in the current attack on Gaza:
In Shajaiyeh, troops seized control of three six-story buildings on the outskirts, climbing to rooftop gun and observation positions, Israeli defense officials said. Residents were locked in their rooms and soldiers took away their cell phones, a neighbor said, quoting a relative who called before his phone was seized.
So, you have a scenario in which Israeli soldiers are known to use residential high-rise buildings as a base for their military operations, while the Palestinian civilian residents are forced to remain inside... Then you have a report that the IDF is using the same tactic in its current attack on Gaza... Then you have reports of a specific incident in which an extended family is said to have been locked inside their multi-storey home by Israeli soldiers, and killed when the building is subsequently destroyed. I don’t think it’s a huge stretch of the imagination to wonder whether this was one of the IDF’s "routine" human shield operations, that on this occasion went horribly wrong.