The death of a Palestinian teenager in an Israeli army operation has revived the debate over human shields.
The young man was shot on Wednesday in the West Bank town of Tubas.
He was forced to go to the door of a house where a Hamas militant was believed
to be hiding.
The use of Palestinian human shields became an issue during Israel's sweeping
military operations in April, when human rights organisations petitioned the supreme
court to order a stop to the practice.
Hail of bullets
Palestinian witnesses said 19-year-old Nidal Abumuhsein was forced at gunpoint
to try and get the senior Hamas militant to surrender.
They said the Israeli army gave him a protective flack jacket and a sniffer
When he knocked on the door he was killed by a burst of bullets, although
Tubas residents claim they came from the soldiers, not the house.
The army said it was trying to prevent deaths by having the teenager warn
any civilians who may have been inside.
But the Israeli human rights group, B'tselem, strongly condemned the incident
as another example of Palestinians being used to shield Israeli forces from potential
Several months ago, it petitioned the supreme court, along with other human
rights activists to rule against the practice.
The group said the army was using civilians to check booby trapped buildings,
remove suspicious objects from roads, and walk in front of soldiers to ward off
The government responded by forbidding such practices.
But it drew a distinction between human shields and, what it calls "neighbourhood
procedure", that is, using civilians to help soldiers enter Palestinian homes,
or approach besieged militants to negotiate an end to a standoff.
B'tselem is demanding that this should also be prohibited.
But the issue is a matter of debate in Israel.
A number of government ministers told Israeli media that the country was in
a war situation, and sometimes the lives of Palestinian civilians had to be endangered,
to prevent attacks in Israel, or to protect Israeli soldiers.
© AFP 2002