On 30 Dec. the two soldiers who shot and killed Samir ‘Awad near the Separation Barrier in Jan. 2013 were indicted. The facts described in the indictment are very similar to those found by B’Tselem’s inquiries, clearly indicating the shooting was unjustified and an outright breach of the open-fire regulations. The disparity between the soldiers’ egregious conduct and the minor charges being brought against them beggars belief, and sends security personnel in the OPT a clear message that the system will allow them to continue to operate with impunity, even if they kill Palestinians who pose no danger and even if they breach regulations.
Op-ed by Yael Stein, Director of B'Tselem’s Research Dept., first published in Ynetnews. In response to allegations that torture was used in interrogating the suspects in the torching of the Dawabsheh family home that killed three people, PM Netanyahu was quick to reassure: “All the investigations are being conducted in accordance with the law”. The question is not whether a given act is in accordance with a specially tailored law. The fact that something is legal does not make it justifiable. Sometimes the fact that something is legal serves only to illustrate the bankruptcy of legislative mechanisms.
On 9 Dec. 2015 soldiers at a flying checkpoint near Silwad fired at a car shuttling school boys as it drove off after inspection. A bullet shattered the back window and lodged in the windshield. The four boys, aged 8-16, suffered anxiety attacks. The military said one of the boys had thrown a screwdriver at the soldiers, a claim unbacked by evidence and contradicted by the accounts given by the driver and children. Even if the claim were true, the shooting was unwarranted and violated open-fire regulations. Fortunately, no one was hurt by the bullet that penetrated the car.
Israel’s law enforcement authorities have formulated an interrogation system that relies on abuse and even torture. It is not the private initiative of any individual interrogator or prison guard. The use of these measures in interrogation is wrong. People under interrogation – be they Palestinian or Jewish – must not be subjected to abuse and torture, no matter what.
On 24 Nov. 2015, security forces arrested two young minors in Beit Ummar. Khatab Abu Mariyah, 12, who was arrested on the street, told B’Tselem he had been kicked and beaten. Yusef ‘Alameh, 8, was taken by force from his home despite being under the age of criminal responsibility. Security forces did not allow the parents accompany the boys, who were then held for hours and interrogated without the presence of an adult on their behalf. This disregard of the basic protections afforded to minors along with the violence used are another example of cases previously documented by B’Tselem in which the military blatantly violates the rights of minors – with legal backing.
The bodies of 55 Palestinians, including 11 minors, killed in the recent wave of violence have yet to be returned to their families. This measure does not punish the dead but their families, who were neither involved in nor responsible for the actions of their relatives. The non-return of bodies is an official policy justified by the Israeli government on the grounds of deterrence. Yet “deterrence” cannot justify all actions, and certainly not a policy that gravely injury human dignity. Not only is this policy patently immoral, it is yet another instance of Israeli authorities’ disregard for the lives of Palestinians – even after their death.
Since Oct. 2015 dozens of assaults by Palestinians have left 16 civilians and 3 members of Israel’s security forces dead. Up to 11 Dec. 2015, 71 assailants were shot dead by security forces or civilians. This wave of violent assaults is appalling, and clearly Israel’s security forces must protect the public. The law is also clear: shooting to kill is permissible only in cases of mortal danger. Yet analysis of 12 cases widely covered in the media and examined by B’Tselem paints an alarming picture of excessive and unwarranted use of lethal gunfire, which in some cases was tantamount to summary execution of assailants or suspected assailants.
Recent reports state the ISA may use “special measures” against the suspects in the Duma torching which killed three members of the Dawabsheh family. These measures are a code name for abuse used in the interrogation system developed since the 1999 court ruling banning torture. Authorities must fully investigate and prosecute this heinous crime, one of the worst perpetrated by Israelis against Palestinians, but it must do so without resorting to prohibited measures or violating suspects’ rights. The same must apply to all Palestinian detainees, who are routinely abused and at times tortured.
Today is International Human Rights Day, marking the UN’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that states all people deserve life, security, liberty, equality and dignity. On the other side of the Green Line, a line essentially invisible to Israelis, millions of people – Palestinian residents of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip - are being deprived of their rights, a deprivation particularly blatant in Hebron. To mark the day, we made a clip on the background to current events in Hebron, and the daily oppression in a city that has become a flashpoint for violent flare-ups.
Israel recently demolished the homes of 2 West Bank families as collective punishment for attacks relatives perpetrated or allegedly aided in. Damage by the blasts left 6 more units unhabitable: 27 people (includ. 16 minors) suspected of no wrongdoing were left homeless. Demolishing family homes of suspected attackers is collective punishment, prohibited under international law. Despite the sanction’s extremity, and the clear position by legal scholars that it is unlawful, the HCJ repeatedly upholds this draconian and vindictive measure used against entire families accused of no wrongdoing.
Yossi Sarid, a leader in the Israeli peace camp, passed away Friday (4 Dec. 2015). Sarid not only gave B’Tselem its name, he also lucidly and eloquently shaped our guiding worldview, and instilled in many Israelis the importance of conscientious, independent and critical thinking. He served as a model of how - when necessary - to fearlessly espouse a stance contradictory to the prevailing consensus. His political and public activity and his writing all conveyed his deep commitment to human rights, and to improving the world and Israeli society. We will continue following in his footsteps, working to bring about an end to the injustices of the occupation.
Today, Dec. 3, Civil Administration personnel and soldiers confiscated seven tents donated to the al-Hadidiyah community by the French aid organization ACTED. Residents were already living in four of the tents confiscated, which were erected after the authorities demolished and confiscated tents on three separate occasions during the last week. 15 people, including four minors, were left with no shelter against the rain and cold. The Israeli authorities’ continued harassment of the residents of al-Hadidiyah is part of their ongoing efforts to expel Palestinian communities from Area C.
On 30 Nov., Israeli authorities confiscated tents given by aid organizations to the al-Hadidiyah community in the northern Jordan Valley, following an earlier demolition that left 15 people, including 4 minors, homeless and the dirt road to the community severely damaged. This is the latest step in ongoing harassment of this community. Hiding behind building laws, Israel is pursuing a policy of expelling Palestinians from Area C by making life there unbearable, which amounts to the forcible transfer of protected persons in occupied territory.
Civil Administration displaces 13 families in Khirbet Humsah 7 times in November for military training. Residents have been temporarily displaced 18 times this year, with another expected before month’s end. Entire families are forced to leave their homes on short notice, with their livestock, for extended durations, remaining without proper shelter in harsh weather. Frequent military training in the area is part of Israel’s badgering of local residents in an unlawful bid to reduce Palestinian presence in the Jordan Valley and Area C.
B’Tselem sent a letter to Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, demanding a cessation of the use of lethal force against people who either harmed, tried to harm, or were suspected of trying to harm others, once they no longer posed any danger. The letter demanded an end to the horrific string of summary street executions.
In past two days, Palestinian girls attacked Israelis and were shot to death by security forces when lying motionless on the ground, posing no danger. Since early Oct., 48 knife attacks on Israelis have ended with Palestinian assailants/suspects shot to death. The recent surge of knife attacks is horrifying and security forces must protect the public and apprehend suspects, but they cannot act as judge or executioner. Top officials encourage the public to shoot anyone suspected of attacking Israelis, regardless of whether they pose danger, raising concern that these acts will go uninvestigated and the killers will continue to be role models.
On 13 Nov. 2015, after a demonstration against the Separation Barrier in Budrus, several Palestinians approached the barrier. Soldiers emerged from an ambush and grabbed Lafy ‘Awad. They beat him as he tried to break free and his friends threw stones at the soldiers. He began to flee and a soldier shot him in the back, killing him. Three years ago soldiers killed Samir ‘Awad in almost identical circumstances; only recently was a decision made to try them on minor offenses. The policy of allowing armed ambushes against stone-throwers continues to take lives, permitting unjustified use of lethal force and needless death.
On 21 Oct. 2015 PM Netanyahu retroactively approved an urban building plan for the settlement of Itamar. A week later he granted similar approval to 3 more settlements. Once again Israel retroactively approved settlement construction it had deemed illegal for years defined. Contrary to media reports that presented the PM as capitulating to pressure from settlers, his actions are consistent with a long-standing Israeli policy to facilitate de facto annexation of West Bank land.
On Thursday, 19 Nov. 2015, 13 families from Khirbet Humsah in the northern Jordan Valley were forced to temporarily evacuate for the purpose of allowing the military to hold exercises in the part of the village close to their homes. It was the sixth time this month that these families were forced to leave their homes. On three of these occasions, the Civil Administration (CA) did not allow them to return until midnight. The CA has relocated residents of this community 17 times since the beginning of 2015 – on the grounds that the area is needed for military training.
Hadar Buchris was waiting at a hitchhiking stop in Gush Etzion in the West Bank when a Palestinian assaulted and stabbed her with a knife. She died of her wounds in hospital in Jerusalem. B’Tselem expresses deep sorrow over the attack and conveys its sincerest condolences to the family. Intentional assaults against civilians undermine every moral, legal and human standard. B’Tselem strongly condemns such assaults against Israeli or Palestinian civilians and calls once again on politicians and leaders to avoid fanning the flames of violence.