Reports and Studies

Justice Denied: Gaza human shield survivors and the systemic failure of Israel’s military investigation system to provide accountability

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5 September 2018

Executive Summary


In the summer of 2014, during the military bombardment of Gaza that Israel termed ‘Operation Protective Edge’, at least five Palestinians in Gaza, including a child, had their lives endangered when used as human shields by Israeli military forces. These five documented incidents began within a 48-hour period in a confined geographical vicinity during the Israeli forces’ ground invasion into Khuza’a town and Wadi As-Salqa village in Gaza between 21 July and 1 August.


The five incidents, publicly catalogued together for the first time in this report, are part of a pattern of reported human shield use against Palestinian civilians by Israel's military forces over a number of years that has effectively gone unpunished. This state of affairs is indicative of there being an established practice or policy of Israel's military to use Palestinian civilians as human shields. The use of human shields is prohibited under international law and amounts to a war crime.


The five human shield incidents documented within this report took place within a ten-day period for the inhabitants of Khuza'a, during which:


  • -- thousands of Palestinian civilians came under fire while peacefully attempting to flee their town on 23 July under International Committee of the Red Cross coordination at the start of Israel's ground invasion;
  • -- a medical clinic sheltering civilians and injured people was hit by missiles;
  • -- a grievously injured seven-year-old, Anas ‘Bader’ Qdeih, died after his medical evacuation was obstructed by Israeli military forces; and
  • -- family homes and public property and infrastructure were destroyed or seriously damaged en masse.


To mark four years from this devastating scene, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights (Al Mezan) and Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR) highlight the harrowing accounts of the five human shield survivors and the denial of justice for them and thousands of victims of other apparent grave violations by Israel's military forces during Operation Protective Edge due to the well-documented systematic failings of Israel's military criminal investigation process.


Our firm position, four years after the devastating military offensive launched on Gaza by Israel's highest political and military leadership, is that the only viable avenue to possibly obtain justice and legal accountability for Palestinian victims, survivors and their families of apparent war crimes and crimes against humanity is through the International Criminal Court and other international accountability mechanisms.