On Friday afternoon, 30 July 2021 , Shawqat 'Awad, a resident of Beit Ummar in Hebron District who was fatally shot by Israeli security forces, was laid to rest in the village. During the funeral, security forces attacked the participants, who threw stones at them. Manal 'Awad, a village resident, was standing on the roof of her home overlooking the village's main street and observing the clashes.
When she saw soldiers and Border Police officers approaching her house, she hurried back inside. Her five children, aged 2 to 13, where in the house. The officers forced broke their way into her home and ordered her to go up to the roof with them. Manal’s frightened children were left inside by themselves. Upon reaching the roof, the officers ordered Manal to stand next to them as they fired tear gas canisters and rubber-coated metal bullets at residents on the street, who were throwing stones at them. 'Awad was held at the scene for an hour in the middle of the confrontation without any protection and was required to carry objects up the stairs for the forces.
The military openly practiced a policy of using Palestinian civilians as human shields during the second intifada. Soldiers ordered Palestinians – chosen at random – to perform military tasks involving a genuine risk to their lives, such as removing suspicious objects from roads, ordering people to come out of their homes so the military can arrest them, standing in front of soldiers while the latter fired behind their backs, and more.
In 2005, in an unusual decision , Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled that any use of Palestinian civilians during military operations is forbidden. Soldiers, have, however, continued to occasionally use Palestinians as human shields – as indicated by this case. Coercing a person to protect another person – certainly a soldier of the occupation army – is always immoral and unlawful.
In a testimony she gave B'Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhsash on 2 August 2021, Manal 'Awad (39), a mother of five, recounted what happened that day:
On Friday, 30 July 2021, at around 1:30 P.M., after the Friday prayers, I was standing on the roof of the house to watch the funeral of the martyr Shawqat 'Awad (22), who was killed the day before. I saw large military and Border Police forces starting to attack the participants with stun grenades and "rubber" bullets. Many of the participants fled, and the soldiers chased them and advanced into the village, near my home. I immediately got off the roof and closed the main door. I barely managed to get into our apartment on the second floor, and I could hear glass shattering below and shouts, "Open up, open up."
I went down quickly to open the front door of the building and saw two male Border Police officers and one female officer holding crates. One of them ordered me to close the door and go up to the roof with them as he pointed his weapon at me. I went up to the second floor and reached my apartment door, where my five young children were. I wanted to go in, but then the officer shouted at me to go up to the roof and stand beside them at the edge that overlooks the road. They started shooting "rubber" bullets and tear gas canisters at the stone-throwers around the house. The youths threw stones at soldiers and Border Police officers on the street and those on our roof. Some stones landed next to me, and I was terrified that I'd get hurt.
I stood there for over 10 minutes and didn't know what to do. One of the officers noticed that I was scared and told me to stand to the side, at the entrance to the roof, and not move. I asked to go down and get into my house. I explained that my kids were afraid and that my youngest son was crying. Even though the officer heard him crying, he refused to let me go. I asked both him and the female officer several times, but they refused. I kept standing there for over an hour. The officers fired, and the young men threw stones.
At around 3:00 P.M., my husband called me, saying that my mother-in-law and a relative of ours were waiting downstairs and trying to get into the house. I told the officer, and he told me to wait. After a few minutes, he received a call. I assumed it had to do with my mother-in-law and the relative who had come with her. He ordered me to come down with him to open the front door for them. We went downstairs, and I opened the door, and then we went upstairs, and I went with them into our apartment on the second floor to my children. The officer must have returned to the roof.
Manal's mother-in-law, Fatmeh (58), came to the house during the clashes on the street along with a relative, Khitam (56), after her grandchildren told her on the phone that there were Border Police officers in their house and that their mother was with the officers. They were forced to wait amid the confrontation and only after an argument with a Border Police officer stationed at the building's entrance were they allowed in. An officer came down from the roof along with Manal and escorted them to the family's apartment, where the children were waiting.
About 40 minutes after they arrived, an officer knocked on 'Awad's door holding a large crate and rudely ordered her to carry it downstairs to the ground floor. The two then returned, and the officer took the crate from her and went up to the room. About ten minutes later, the officer came back and demanded she go down with him to the ground floor to carry another crate upstairs. 'Awad estimates that the crate contained equipment and ammunition intended for the forces on the roof, who continued firing at the young men on the street.
In a testimony she gave B'Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bari, Khitam 'Awad (56) described how the soldier forced Manal to carry the crates:
I went with Fatmeh to Manal’s house, and as soon as we got there, we saw Border Police officers and journalists near the house. There were some young guys there who were throwing a lot of stones at the Border Police officers on the rooftop. The stones landed close to us. The officers responded with fire and stun grenades. The journalists fled, and Fatmeh and I argued with the officers and insisted on going into the house. We heard Manal’s voice from the roof. She told us the forces were holding her there and not letting her open the door for anyone. We waited for a few minutes and talked to one of the officers at the entrance, who spoke good Arabic. We told him that we wouldn’t leave until we saw the children. At first, the officer refused and said they were taking care of the children better than us. Despite that, he asked the officers on the roof to open the door. Manal opened the door for us with a Border Police officer who accompanied her. We went up with them to the second floor, where the kids were locked up in the apartment. They were crying and shaking with fear. Manal also looked pale and frightened.
An officer ordered us to stay in one of the rooms and not move. Then he left and apparently went up to the roof. We heard stones landing on the roof and the shooting of “rubber” bullets and tear gas from the room we were in. After about 40 minutes, the officer came back holding a metal crate. He ordered Manal to take it to the front door of the building. Manal asked him what was in the crate, and he replied, “Pick it up and shut up!” Manal lifted the crate and went down with the officer. They returned after about 15 minutes with her carrying the crate. The officer took it from her, ordered us to sit and not move, and went up to the roof. Manal returned to the apartment, hugged her young children and calmed them down.
Then the officer came back and ordered Manal to escort him again to the front door of the building. Manal went down with him and came back about 10 minutes later holding a crate. I didn’t know what was inside. The officer took the crate from her and went up to the roof.
They kept us locked up there for about two and a half hours. We kept hearing stone-throwing and shooting. Then the officers left the building. I also left and went home even though there were still troops around.