West Bank human shield describes ‘100 breathless minutes’ held by Israel

Bahaa el-Din Abu Ras, 36, is a bearded man with brown hair that has gone a little grey in the middle, he’s not sure when exactly, but thinks it was two weeks ago.

Even though two weeks have passed since his ordeal, and despite being in his mobile shop surrounded by familiar items, he seems stressed to be retelling the tale of being used as a human shield to protect Israeli soldiers.

On Monday, January 15, 2024, at 1:30pm, the Israeli army stormed Dura, south of Hebron, in about 10 military vehicles, stopping in the town’s downtown commercial area, near the Bahaa’s shop, and his ordeal began.


“The downtown is busy at midday, but the army stopped and started throwing tear gas bombs, quite heavily. We shut our door and as me and my coworkers were figuring out how to leave.

Then a group of masked soldiers came to the door and told me to open up. He was speaking Arabic, so I asked him why they needed my shop, and he said they needed to check if I was selling surveillance drones. I said I wasn’t, but they went in and began searching.

“We were outside, and I could hear the noise they were making in there, breaking things. The soldiers who were still outside asked me if I owned the shop and when I said yes, they laid into me. I was kicked, punched, verbally assaulted. They threw me face-down on the ground and attacked the two young guys who work with me, Musaab Shawamra, 25, and Mahmoud Hamdan, 17.”

“It was like an interrogation with me thrown on the ground in front of my own shop, being questioned. He went back to asking about surveillance drones – I said no again and, of course, they didn’t find anything in the shop but mobile phones and equipment to repair them.

“The officer made them leave after they’d been searching for about half an hour, but wouldn’t let me get up until a soldier came and kicked me and told me and my guys to get up.”


Bahaa found himself marched into the street, where Palestinians were putting up the only resistance they had: throwing rocks at the heavily armed invading soldiers. The commanding officer sent Musaab and Mahmoud home and made Bahaa walk in front of him, saying, “You go in front of me, we’ll see if anyone dares to throw stones at us now.”

The moments that ensued as he stood in the middle of the market area, shielding heavily armoured soldiers with his body, were beyond description, the father of four said.

In the moments of terror, as bullets whizzed past his head and the sounds of shooting rang in his ears, he thought of 10-year-old Aseel, eight-year-old Bilal, Lin, 6, and little Shahm, just one-year-old, wondering if he would see them or his wife again.

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