A human chain which acted as a human shield
In winter 2011 I was assigned with my reserve unit on a routine security mission in the Benyamin sector in the West Bank. One day, when I was in a patrol unit, we received a call about a violent riot near one of the settlements. As we arrived there we easily spotted the riot. However, it was not a regular riot such as those we were already been accustomed to, for the first time we have identified a deliberate strategic use of “human shield”.
What do I mean? As we got close to the riot we clearly saw that the protestors were aligned in rows. At the first row stood elderly people, at the age of 50-60 and older, definitely not kids. They were the village elders, some wore ties and decent clothes. In one hand they held a phone or a camera pointed at us and in the other they held the person next to them. In that manner they created a chain of 20-30 people, which acted as a human shield for the people in the back. And who was in the back? 100-200 youths who were throwing stones, rocks, sticks and whatever they could grab at us. They simply threw the objects above the heads of the people in the first row who protected them. It reminded me a vision of a Roman army, where the foot soldiers are standing in the first row and behind them are the archers. However, in our case the foot soldiers were elderly civilians and instead of weapons they were holding cameras. This situation was very problematic for us. The violent attackers in the back were essentially protected by the front row in such a way we could not use our riot control instruments without risking hurting the elderly people on the front who were not actively attacking us.
I have already witnessed human shield situations in my service where terrorists used children against their will to protect themselves. However, this was the first time I saw how it is done in such a planned and calculated fashion. There was a lot of thought and a clear plan in making this front line and its meaning – the way it would appear to the press as there were so many cameras at the scene. It was a deliberate and proactive use of elderly civilians, who may have not actively took part of the violence, but definitely enabled it. Doing so the rioters could both attack us and create a favorable media situation for themselves.