Despite state promises to the High Court of Justice that the Israel Defense Forces would cease using "human shields" during operations, a 19-year-old teenager was killed yesterday when a Border Patrol counter-terrorism force moved in on a house in the Jenin area where a wanted Hamas man was hiding.
Nasser Jerar, who lost his legs and an arm a year ago during preparations of a terrorist attack, was one of the most wanted men on the IDF's suspect list as the orchestrator of many Hamas attacks; most recently, he was the mastermind behind a plot to bring down a multi-story building in Tel Aviv.
Shin Bet information led the counter-terror unit to the village of Tubas in the pre-dawn hours yesterday, where Jerar was believed hiding in a building complex.
The force surrounded the complex and called out with megaphones for Jerar to give himself up. When there was no response, the force took neighbor Nidal Abu Muhsein, the 19-year-old nephew of a B'Tselem field investigator, and had him go door-to-door calling on the residents to leave. In May, the state responded to several petitions to the High Court by human rights groups petitioning against the use of such "human shields" in military operations. In the state's response, the army promised it would cease the use of the method, often used by the army to examine suspicious objects or move through areas suspected of being mined.
The youth knocked on several doors, calling on people to leave. They all did, but not in the case of one house. When Muhsein knocked on that door, said the IDF, a burst of bullets killed him. Tubas residents said the bullets did not come from inside the house.
In any case, troops opened fire, but unsure whether Jerar had been killed, and suspecting he may have booby-trapped the house, the army called in a bulldozer, which proceeded to knock down the house on Jerar.
Jerar, 44, was born in Wadi Burkin, in the northern West Bank, and was one of the Hamas military commanders in the Nablus and Jenin area, orchestrating many terrorist attacks carried out inside Israel over the past few years. Until a year ago, he took part in many of those attacks, but in May 2001, on his way to ambush IDF forces, one of the bombs he had prepared blew up, taking his legs and an arm. Confined to a wheelchair, he continued playing a leading role in Hamas military activities in the Jenin area, becoming commander of the Hamas cells of the northern West Bank.
Based on information from various associates of his captured during the past several months, the Shin Bet discovered his hiding place - and the fact he was plotting a "mega-terror" type bombing: the collapse of a multi-story building in the center of the country. He had already collected intelligence on the operation, and recruited the operatives and was building the bomb for the mission.
The use of a "human shield" yesterday is likely to prompt new petitions to the High Court, which on the basis of the IDF promise in May did not issue a verdict on the issue. Inside the IDF there are senior officers who are vehemently opposed to the use of human shields, saying that it is better to risk the military force than innocent people.
The IDF Spokeswoman's Office dryly reported the use of the neighbor, saying that the force surrounding the house used the megpahone to tell the occupants a neighbor was approaching, and that Muhsein was shot by the terrorists inside the house.
In other developments yesterday, several wanted Palestinians were arrested in Gaza, Jenin, Dir Debwan near Ramallah, Bir Zeit, and at the Rafah crossing. In Duma, south of Hebron, the IDF demolished the home of Haled Talil Gavril Tal, who took part in the February 10 terror shooting in Be'er Sheva that killed an officer and soldier, and wounded 18 other soldiers and civilians.
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