Disguising Soldiers as Humanitarian Aid Workers
On 15.7.2019, ACRI requested that the Chief Military Advocate issue a directive against soldiers dressing up as humanitarian aid workers. We requested they clarify that such acts both endanger the lives of actual humanitarian aid workers and is likely to make Palestinians living in Gaza stop requesting the humanitarian aid they need, making Gazan residents even more vulnerable during times of conflict.
Our request follows the November 11, 2018 intelligence mission in which a group of Special Forces soldiers stayed in Khan Younes as part of the mission. During the action, Lieutenant Colonel M. was killed, another officer injured, and seven Palestinians were killed, amongst them a senior official. According to different publications, the army had used a cover story of the soldiers as humanitarian aid workers. According to these publications, the soldiers disguised themselves as workers of a food distribution organization. Food distribution is a purely humanitarian act, especially in the Gaza Strip, which, due to Israel’s years-long siege, is in economic collapse and a desperate humanitarian crisis. Due to high unemployment rates and diminishing hygienic conditions, many families in the Gaza Strip are dependent on humanitarian aid organizations to survive. Because of the profound crisis, there is also a relatively large presence of humanitarian aid organizations.
In our request to the Chief Military Advocate, ACRI Adv. Roni Pelli noted that using “humanitarian aid worker” as a disguise violates international law. Such acts immediately make all international aid workers suspect to locals. Therefore, instead of being perceived as people who come to help the Gazan population, the workers are likely to be perceived as a part of a hostile power and not utilized as intended.