Use of firearms

The army must end its use of rubber bullets as a means to disperse demonstrations in the occupied territories, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and B'Tselem have demanded in a letter to Deputy State Attorney for Special Matters, Attorney Eli Abarbanel. The move comes following numerous instances of death and injury to unarmed protestors by rubber bullets, and following the injury of B'Tselem spokesperson Sarit Michaeli during a demonstration last month.

July 31

On 19 July 2013 B’Tselem Spokesperson Sarit Michaeli was hit and injured by a rubber-coated metal bullet a Border Police officer fired at her while she was filming a demonstration at the village of a-Nabi Saleh. The shooting contravenes military directives. B’Tselem will convey documentation of the incident to police.

July 21

On 9 July 2013, the High Court of Justice dismissed a petition demanding that the Israeli military cease all use of white phosphorous in civilian areas. The petition, filed by Advocates Michael Sfard and Emily Schaeffer on behalf of 117 petitioners, including human rights organizations, was dismissed after Israel pledged to stop using white phosphorus, with the exception of two classified conditions. Despite dismissing the petition, the justices did order the military to reconsider the use of white phosphorous. The military's pledge is a step in the right direction. However, given that under international humanitarian law the use of white phosphorous in the present setting of the Gaza Strip is unlawful, and considering its horrific results, B'Tselem demands that the military prohibit all use of white phosphorous in densely populated civilian areas, such as the Gaza Strip.

July 14

After several months of field research and crosschecking data, human rights organization B’Tselem published a report today (Thursday, 9 May 2013) reviewing harm to civilians in Operation Pillar of Defense. The report provides statistics on the numbers of Palestinians and Israelis killed over the course of the operation, which lasted from 14 to 21 November 2012. The report challenges the common perception in the Israeli public and media that the operation was “surgical” and caused practically no fatalities among uninvolved Palestinian civilians. Furthermore, the report finds that there was a significant difference between the first and the final days of the operation: of the uninvolved Palestinian fatalities, 80% were killed in the last four days of the operation.

May 8

Two years after the State Attorney’s Office announced a change to the military’s investigative policy, B'Tselem follows up the cases of civilians killed by the military in the West Bank. The information demonstrates that some of the investigations are of unreasonably lengthy duration. In other cases, the decision on how the case ought to be handled is delayed at the level of the MAG Corps. This type of investigative policy diminishes the prospects for an effective criminal proceeding, constituting a serious infringement of both the principle of the rule of law and the power to deter and prevent similar incidents.

May 1

The media have reported that on 18 March 2013 an Israeli soldier was convicted of negligent homicide in the death of ‘Udai Darawish. On 12 Jan. 2013 the soldier shot Darawish after the latter crossed into Israel from the West Bank through a gap in the Separation Barrier. Darawish was on his way to work in Israel but had no entry permit. The prosecution reportedly intended to charge the soldier with homicide, but the charge was reduced through a plea bargain. The soldier’s sentence is yet to be given. Indictments of soldiers involved in killing Palestinians are extremely rare. B’Tselem knows of only 15 indictments in such cases since the outbreak of the second Intifada.

April 9

On 3 March 2013, B’Tselem filed an appeal against the decision of the MAG Corps’ not to indict in the case of Eran Cohen, an Israel civilian injured by a rubber-coated metal bullet during a demonstration in Bil’in on 14 March 2008. Cohen was shot by an Israeli officer despite having done nothing to endanger the soldiers, as can be seen in two separate videos of the incident that were conveyed to the police. The MAG Corps refused to disclose to B’Tselem its reasoning for closing the case.

March 7

Following the death of Muhammad ‘Asfur this morning from injuries sustained two weeks ago, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem wrote to Military Advocate General Major-General Danny Efroni, repeating its demand that cases of severe injury to Palestinians by soldiers’ fire be immediately investigated. Two days ago, B’Tselem sent the MAG a list of five incidents in which Palestinians were injured recently by soldiers, including the case of ‘Asfur, who was shot in the head with a rubber-coated metal bullet.

March 7

The mother of a resident of the village of Bil’in who was killed by a tear-gas grenade fired at him by a soldier has petitioned the High Court of Justice. The petition demands that the Military Advocate General, Major-General Danny Efroni, be ordered to reach a decision in the case and prosecute the soldier who fired the grenade and all those bearing command responsibility for the killing of her son. In the petition, which was filed jointly with Bil’in Village Council, B’Tselem and Yesh Din, Subhiya Abu Rahmeh demands an urgent hearing in view of the fact that almost four years have passed since her son was killed. The incident was documented in the film Five Broken Cameras, which was a candidate for the 2013 Academy Awards.

March 4

On 15 January 2013, Samir ‘Awad, 16, was killed by live ammunition fired by Israeli soldiers near the Separation Barrier at Budrus. A B’Tselem inquiry reveals that the soldiers were not in danger at any time. Nevertheless, and in total contravention of open-fire regulations, they shot ‘Awad three times. The Military Advocate General (MAG) Corps announced that same day that it ordered an investigation to be opened. B’Tselem conveyed to the Military Police Investigations Unit all the information it collected on the incident, and is awaiting the conclusion of the investigation.

February 21

Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem welcomes the recommendations of the Turkel Commission concerning investigations of violations of the laws of armed conflict and calls for full and prompt implementation. Implementation of the commission’s recommendations will lead to a substantive change in the Israeli military’s investigatory apparatus. In its recommendations, the commission adopted several fundamental principles presented to it by representatives of B’Tselem, other human rights organizations and senior jurists.

February 6

In January 2013, Israeli soldiers fatally shot four Palestinians in the West Bank and at least one in the Gaza Strip. According to B’Tselem’s preliminary inquiries into the five cases in which the Israeli military has accepted responsibility for the firing, the people killed were unarmed and posed no danger to the soldiers.
B’Tselem is monitoring the MPIU investigations and would emphasize that, in addition to investigating the circumstances of each incident, the investigators must also examine the written and oral directives conveyed to the soldiers involved.

January 30

A new B’Tselem report reveals the full inventory of crowd control weapons used by Israeli security forces in the West Bank. These weapons are meant to be non-lethal, enabling authorities to enforce the law without endangering human life. In fact, however, some of these weapons are dangerous and may be lethal if used improperly. Crowd control weapons have killed and injured demonstrators and people throwing stones.

January 28

A B’Tselem investigation indicates that on Monday, 19 November 2012, students from the Tuqu’ boys’ high school were protesting the Pillar of Defense campaign in the Gaza Strip. The school is located near Route 356, which links Bethlehem and Hebron, and some of the students were throwing stones at the road. Consequently, an Israeli military force arrived on the scene. In a video filmed by a Ma’an News Agency photographer, one of the soldiers is seen firing live ammunition at the students, even though none of the soldiers was in danger. A bullet hit one student in the abdomen. B’Tselem contacted the Military Advocate General Corps, demanding an investigation of the incident.

January 6

"On ordinary days, when I go to work, I leave Rama with my parents who live seven, eight kilometers away from us, in the a-Sheikh Radwan neighborhood. Rama is very attached to them. Now she cries a lot and asks to go to her grandpa and grandma, and repeats the names of her uncles and aunts. She goes to her closet, takes out her clothes and her little bag and walks to the door. I don’t know what to say to her, how to explain that we cannot go to grandpa and grandma".

December 6

B'Tselem sent a letter to the MAG Corps stating that a year is unreasonably long for this kind of investigation. The longer the process is drawn out, the greater the damage to the prospects for an effective criminal proceeding. B'Tselem added that it intends to seek legal remedy if no progress is made in the handling of the case.

December 5

Yael Stein, Research Director, B’Tselem, in an op-ed originally published 3 December 2012 in the Hebrew Haaretz: Israeli legal experts pronounced lawful all actions taken in Operation Pillar of Defense. That said, they seem to treat international humanitarian law as a combat manual designed to help them identify targets, rather than as guidelines designed to protect civilians from the dire consequences of warfare and to minimize, insofar as possible, harm to civilians.

December 4

Media reports state that in the ceasefire negotiations to end Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel and Hamas reached understandings that include the easing of restrictions on the movement of farmers and fishermen in the Gaza Strip. Among other things, it was agreed that the Israeli military would permit Gaza farmers to cultivate plots located up to 100 meters from the Israel-Gaza perimeter fence. This is a change from the official Israeli prohibition of recent years which forbade any approach closer than 300 meters from the fence. In addition, Gaza fishermen may now fish up to six nautical miles (approximately 11 km) from the Gaza coast, compared with the 3-mile limit imposed prior to Operation Pillar of Defense.

November 27

"I was in shock when I discovered that a missile [sic] had fallen right next to the wall surrounding the compound and destroyed it. I saw my grandson Iyad lying dead on the ground. He had been hit by shrapnel from the shell. My other grandson, Suhaib, was lying next to him but he was moving. Also my granddaughter Sarah was lying on the ground. I called an ambulance immediately. I picked up Iyad. We stood there crying for help."

November 22