On 1 Jan. '09, the Israeli army killed four women and eleven children when it bombed the house of Nizar Rayan, a senior Hamas official, in the Jabalya refugee camp. Such extensive loss of civilian life constitutes a grave breach of international humanitarian law and cannot be justified on military grounds.
Samirah Bau'lusha, 36, lost 5 of her daughters when her house was destroyed after the Israeli Air Force bombed a mosque next door. Four of her other children were also hurt during the attack. According to Ba'aloosha, many houses near by were damaged as a result of the mosque bombing.
The Kashku family was warming themselves around a bon-fire in their yard due to the power failure. Ibtehal, the 8-year-old girl, went up to her aunt's apartment to get tea, when the house was bombed. Ibtehal and her aunt were killed and the house was destroyed.
Statements by officials suggest that Israel is defining anything connected to Hamas as a military target. This approach violates the principle of distinction between civilian objects and military targets that is fundamental to international humanitarian law.
The owner of the truck bombed by the Israeli Air Force on Salah a-Din street in Gaza on Monday claims the truck was carrying oxygen canisters, not Grad rockets. The Israeli army published drone footage of the bombing.
Since 27 Dec., Israel has been bombing targets in Gaza that it claims are linked to Hamas. Since the assault began, the international media have reported 383 Palestinian casualties, more than 30 of whom are minors. 3 Israeli civilians have been killed by rockets fired from Gaza by Palestinian militant organizations.
In light of the recent escalation in violence around the Gaza Strip, and the firing of rockets towards Israeli communities, B'Tselem has repeated its demand that all parties to the hostilities prevent the harming of civilians. The rules of war obligate all parties to a conflict to do their utmost to defend the civilian population.
In April 2004, an indictment was filed against a soldier who shot and killed 'Omar Matar in the Qalandiya refugee camp in March 2003. In June 2008, following repeated letters from B'Tselem, the IDF Spokesperson responded that, "no verdict has been given in the case, given that the matter is still being heard and the defendant left the country and is staying abroad."
On 4 Oct. '08, Border Police officer Tomer Avraham killed Iyad Abu-Ra'iyeh, who was found in Tel Aviv without a permit, after severely beating him. Tel Aviv District Court judge Oded Mudrik sentenced Avraham to one year imprisonment for manslaughter, referring to the crime as "a hapless, lethal act incidental to military or police activity."
Despite the harsh criticism voiced earlier by the High Court justices, the judge advocate general sticks to his position that the charge of unbecoming conduct is suitable for a case in which a bound and blindfolded Palestinian was abused and shot.
On 5 Oct. '08, two fishermen sailed from Rafah in a rowboat. One of them, Muhammad Musleh, told B'Tselem that an Israeli navy boat fired at them without warning, although they were in the zone permitted for fishing by the army. Musleh was severely injured in his leg and is being treated in al-Muqassed Hospital in Jerusalem. B'Tselem knows of numerous cases, in the last two years, of soldiers shooting and abusing fishermen on the Gaza shoreline.
On 28 Sept. '08, the Israeli High Court held a hearing on the petition of Ashraf Abu Rahma and human rights organizations demanding amendment of the indictment against the battalion commander and soldier involved in the shooting of Abu Rahma in Ni'lin. The justices ordered the military Judge Advocate General's Office to reconsider the indictment and to inform the court of its decision within 40 days.
Over the past year, settlers from Yitzhar and the surrounding area have sharply stepped up violent acts in nearby Palestinian villages. On 13 Sept., after a Palestinian stabbed a Jewish boy and burnt down a caravan in a settlement near Yitzhar, dozens of settlers raided the village of 'Asira al-Qibliya, rioted and widely damaged property. Soldiers were present at the time, yet did nothing to prevent the settlers' actions, and fired at the Palestinians.
B'Tselem's data indicate that security forces have adopted a practice of reckless firing of rubber-coated steel bullets in the West Bank, killing two Palestinians and injuring many more since the beginning of the year. Since the intifada began, 21 Palestinians have been killed by rubber-coated steel bullet fire, a measure that is meant to be non-lethal.
On 1 August, after children threw stones at soldiers in the Jalazun refugee camp, a soldier fired a tear gas canister at a young bystander. Following B'Tselem's complaint, an investigation into the incident was opened. Soldiers often fire tear gas canisters directly at Palestinians, despite legal and military prohibitions.
This morning, Ashraf Abu Rahma, who was shot by IDF soldiers in Ni'lin while handcuffed and blindfolded, together with four Israeli human rights organizations filed an urgent petition to the High Court of Justice against the Judge Advocate General's decision to prosecute the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Omri Borberg, and the soldier who fired the shot, Staff Sgt. L, for "unbecoming conduct," a light offense that does not result in a criminal record.
Following a petition against the indictment for "unbecoming conduct", the Israeli High Court has obliged the JAG to justify his decision. The court also suspended military court proceedings until the petition is decided upon.
The facts of the case raise the serious suspicion that the soldiers in the tank, and those who gave them the order to open fire, failed to adhere to the duty to take all possible precautions to avoid the harming of civilians and civilian objectives.