GENEVA – Israeli soldiers used an 11-year-old Palestinian boy as a human shield during the war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, a group of U.N. human rights experts said Monday.
The Israeli Defense force ordered the boy to walk in front of soldiers being fired on in the Gaza neighborhood of Tel al-Hawa and enter buildings before them, said the U.N. secretary-general's envoy for protecting children in armed conflict.
Radhika Coomaraswamy said the incident on Jan. 15, after Israeli tanks had rolled into the neighborhood, was a violation of Israeli and international law.
It was included in a 43-page report published Monday, and was just one of many verified human rights atrocities during the three-week war between Israel and Hamas that ended Jan. 18, she said.
Coomaraswamy accused Israeli soldiers of shooting Palestinian children, bulldozing a home with a woman and child still inside, and shelling a building they had ordered civilians into a day earlier.
Israel's diplomatic mission in Geneva said it would respond to the allegations later Monday at a session of the U.N. Human Rights Council.
There also have been allegations that the militant group Hamas used human shields, but U.N. human rights experts have yet to verify those, said Coomaraswamy.
"Violations were reported on a daily basis, too numerous to list," said Coomaraswamy.
Coomaraswamy, who visited Gaza and Israel for five days in February, said her list constituted "just a few examples of the hundreds of incidents that have been documented and verified" by U.N. officials who were in the territory.
She was the only one of the nine U.N. experts who compiled the report that was allowed into Gaza following the war. The experts covered issues ranging from health and hunger to women's rights and arbitrary executions.
The experts also noted reports that Hamas had committed other abuses. They said Hamas had been unwilling to investigate the allegations.
The report called for Israel to end its blockade of the impoverished territory, where they said more than 90 percent of people are dependent on food aid; allow Palestinians to move between Gaza and the West Bank; and investigate human rights abuses that occurred during the conflict.
Coomaraswamy has been a U.N. undersecretary-general since April 2006. She formerly headed the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission and reported as a U.N. special investigator on violence against women.