- The Washington Times - Friday, August 16, 2002

JERUSALEM Israeli soldiers strapped a bulletproof vest onto a Palestinian teenager and ordered him to approach a house where a Hamas militant was hiding, with instructions to bring out everyone inside.

As he neared the house in the West Bank village of Tubas, 19-year-old Nidal Daraghmeh was shot in the back of the head and killed though it was not clear who pulled the trigger. Troops then flattened the house with bulldozers, killing the Hamas militant, the only person inside.

In a separate incident yesterday, a 5-year-old boy was killed and his grandfather and another man were critically wounded when Israeli troops opened fire on a residential area in Gaza near a Jewish settlement, Palestinians said.

The Wednesday evening operation in Tubas has outraged Palestinians and sparked a sharp debate in Israel over a tactic the army has used for years. The army calls it the "neighbor procedure." Critics say the army is using Palestinians as "human shields."

Mr. Daraghmeh was one of dozens of residents in Tubas who were called out of their homes as soldiers surrounded a house where Hamas militant Nasser Jerar was hiding, the army and Palestinian witnesses said.

The soldiers sent the residents to a nearby field, but ordered Mr. Daraghmeh to approach the home and told him to persuade everyone inside to come out so they could arrest Mr. Jerar.

But Mr. Daraghmeh was shot before he reached the door, said family members who saw the body before Mr. Daraghmeh was buried yesterday afternoon.

Soldiers announced on a megaphone that Mr. Daraghmeh was approaching the house. Despite the warning, the army said, Mr. Jerar fired and killed Mr. Daraghmeh.

Mr. Jerar, from nearby Jenin, was staying at the home of a fellow Hamas member and the man's wife.

Soon after the shooting that killed Mr. Daraghmeh, two army bulldozers destroyed the house with Mr. Jerar inside, crushing the militant, who had used a wheelchair since losing both legs and an arm when a bomb he was planting exploded prematurely last year.

The army said Mr. Jerar had been planning a massive bombing at a high-rise building in central Israel.

In Israel, opposition leader Yossi Sarid, a frequent critic of the military, said the use of Palestinian civilians in such situations could constitute "war crimes." The Israeli human rights group B'tselem said Mr. Daraghmeh and other Palestinians before him have been used as "human shields."

"It is not the duty of the Palestinian population to protect army soldiers, but the army's," B'tselem said in a release. "Whatever the circumstances, army soldiers may not endanger the lives of civilians to protect their own."

The Israeli army for years has used the tactic in searches of Palestinian buildings, Israeli Cabinet Minister Effie Eitam, a former army officer, told Israeli Radio.

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