Jerusalem Sameh Amira was fast asleep when he was jolted awake by pounding at the front door. Israeli troops were on a manhunt for wanted militants in the West Bank and decided to draft help.
The terror-stricken 24-year-old Palestinian soon found himself forced onto the front lines of Israel's shadowy war against militants, a human shield as he led heavily armed soldiers from house to house. "I was afraid I would die," he said in a recent interview.
For several years, Palestinians had complained about the army's use of human shields, but proof was difficult to come by. Then in late February, Associated Press Television News captured footage of the incident involving Amira.
The video has prompted the army to launch a rare criminal investigation into whether its soldiers violated a landmark Israeli Supreme Court 2005 ruling barring the use of human shields.
International law, including the Geneva Conventions and Hague regulations, prohibits placing civilians in harm's way during military operations.
The army promises a vigorous investigation. "Violations of the law or of rulings of the Israeli High Court of Justice are viewed with severity," said Capt. Noa Meir, a spokeswoman.
The case highlights one of the many human rights issues the army is dealing with as it enters its fifth decade of military occupation in the West Bank. The army says operations like the raid in Nablus are needed to protect Israelis and Israel's security. But after six years of fighting in the latest intifada, the army's tactics have become increasingly tough on Palestinians not part of the conflict.
The army moved into Nablus - a major West Bank city known as a militant stronghold - on Feb. 24 in a broad sweep targeting militants and weapons labs. The operation shut down large parts of the city for six days and confined thousands of people to their homes.
Questions about army practices peaked in the spring of 2002 during an offensive in the West Bank in response to suicide bombings. During the operation, soldiers often forced Palestinian civilians to approach the homes and hideouts of wanted people.
The army at that time defended the practice, known as "the neighbor procedure," saying it took civilians out of harm's way and encouraged militants to surrender peacefully. The army says it never allowed troops to use civilians for cover during battles.
But in August 2002, a 19-year-old Palestinian student was killed in a gunfight that erupted after he was forced to knock on the door of a building where a Hamas fugitive was hiding.
In its 2005 ruling, the Supreme Court barred any use of civilians in military operations, including the neighbor procedure. Since then, human rights groups say the number of cases has dropped sharply. But Palestinians and Israeli critics say the practice continues.