Use of firearms

22 April '09: B'Tselem to Judge Advocate General – order security forces to stop firing tear-gas grenades directly at people

Published: 
22 Apr 2009

Last Friday, 17 April, during a demonstration in Bi'lin, in the Ramallah District, a soldier fired a tear-gas grenade from an increased distance at Bassem Ibrahim Abu Rahmeh, 30. The grenade left a hole in his chest, causing massive internal bleeding, which led to his death. Two video clips filmed at the site prove that Abu Rahmeh was standing on the eastern side of the fence, about thirty meters from the soldiers, when he was hit. The video clips also show that during the incident, he did not throw stones, did not damage the fence, and did not endanger soldiers in any way whatsoever.

Footage of the shooting of Bassem Abu Rahmeh

B'Tselem wrote to the Judge Advocate General (JAG), Brig. Gen. Avichai Mandelblit on 21 April 2009, demanding that he immediately order a Military Police investigation into the circumstances of Abu Rahmeh's death, and that he make it clear to security forces that it is absolutely forbidden to fire tear-gas grenades directly at people. In a previous letter that B'Tselem sent to the JAG on this matter last month, following the severe injuries sustained by the American, Tristan Anderson, when he was struck in the forhead by a tear-gas grenade fired from an increased distance, no response has been received.

Video footage documenting the shooting of tear-gas canisters directly at people

In its letter of last week, B'Tselem attached video clips of demonstrations in Ni'lin, Bi'lin, and Jayyus filmed in recent months. The clips document repeated firing of tear-gas grenades directly at demonstrators, proving that, contrary to the army's contentions, security forces in the West Bank have commonly practiced this unlawful act.

B'Tselem also noted that, at the location of the demonstrations in Bi'lin and Ni'lin, senior army and border patrol officers are always present. Whether they turn a blind eye to the extensive breach of the Open-Fire Regulations or give express orders to security forces to violate regulations, they bear responsibility for the lethal consequences of this forbidden practice. Furthermore, for some time, and at least since the extensive media coverage of the serious head injury to Tristan Anderson, on 13 March 2009, mentioned above, senior officers of the army and border police have known about direct firing of grenades at demonstrators. Since they were in a position to end this practice, they too bear responsibility for the lethal shooting.