Palestinian minister Ziad Abu Ein died today, Human Rights Day, after joining farmers in nonviolent protest against barred access to their land in the West Bank. While the circumstances of his death need clarifying, the reason for the protest and how Israeli security forces handle Palestinian protests are well-known. The state sends settlers to grab Palestinian land in the West Bank and then sends the army to forcefully silence protest – sometimes, at a lethal price. That is how Human Rights Day looks under occupation.
Since Operation Protective Edge began on 8 July 2014, Palestinians throughout the West Bank have held strikes, rallies, processions and demonstrations to show support for residents of Gaza and to protest the military's actions. At some demonstrations, Palestinians threw stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli security forces and burned tires; at one demonstration in Qalandiya, Palestinians fired live ammunition. Initial investigations by B'Tselem's field researchers found that in many cases, Israeli security forces responded with live fire. Initial information obtained by B'Tselem raises suspicion that senior commanding officers in the West Bank permitted security forces to use live fire as a means of crowd control, even in clashes with unarmed stone-throwers and in circumstances that posed no mortal risk to anyone.
After undertaking an autopsy of the body of Nadim Nawarah, 17, on Wednesday, forensic pathologists have determined that a live bullet was the cause of his death. The Palestinian teenager was killed by Israeli forces on May 15 during clashes in the West Bank town of Beitunia. Responding to the conclusions of the autopsy, the four organizations who coordinated the attendance of the international forensic pathologists stated: "These findings underline the urgency of our demand that the criminal investigation into the Beitunia killings be conducted efficiently and concluded promptly. Rather than attempting to discredit those who called for an investigation, the Israeli military should now focus on uncovering the truth about the shootings, and holding those responsible to account."
On 13 May 2011 Border Police violently dispersed a demonstration at a-Nabi Saleh. Of the five complaints filed, the DIP investigated only one and adopted no further measures. The DIP’s handling of the complaints was faulty and its decision not to investigate is unjustifiable. Of equal concern is the State Attorney's Office’s support of the DIP’s actions, essentially conveying the message that police officers who overstep their authority and harm civilians will not be brought to justice. This is in direct violation of the state’s obligation to safeguard civilians.
For technical reasons only segments of the footage of the gunfire incident in Bitunya–in which Nadim Siyam Nawarah, 17, and Muhammad Mahmoud Salameh, 17, were killed and 2 others injured–were broadcast. B’Tselem is currently uploading all 11 hours of footage and welcomes all to view it to verify its authenticity. Since 2012 Israeli forces have killed 45 Palestinians in the West Bank. To date, only 1 soldier has been indicted. An investigative system leading to virtually no indictments for killing Palestinians conveys disregard for human life.
On 15 May 2014, four Palestinians were shot with live bullets in their upper torsos in Bitunya. Two of them, both minors, died. B'Tselem's findings refute the army's claim that only crowd control measures were used and show that all four were shot with live ammunition, although they posed no danger to the forces. B'Tselem today received full security camera footage of the incident and will pass it on to the MPIU, demanding that the investigation examine not only the soldiers' conduct, but also the responsibility of senior commanders at the scene.
On 4 Apr. 2014 Muhammad Yassin, a B’Tselem’s camera volunteer, sustained severe internal injuries from live gunfire while filming clashes at Bitunya. Footage by David Reeb shows that Yassin was not at the center of the clashes, was carrying a camera and was clad in a vest indicating his photographer status. B’Tselem does not yet know what ammunition hit Yassin. The military, despite pledges to the contrary, often uses live 0.22-caliber bullets even when soldiers are not in mortal danger. B’Tselem demands that Yassin’s wounding be investigated.
B’Tselem recorded 5 fatalities and 55 injuries recently, all of Palestinian uninvolved in hostilities near the Gaza perimeter fence. Although the military refuses to publish the relevant open-fire regulations, statements by officials indicate the possibility that lethal fire might be permitted even in cases of civilians who pose no danger. As Gazans use the area near the fence for various civilian needs, it cannot be regarded exclusively as a combat zone. The military must institute open-fire regulations that take this reality into account.
On Fridays in recent months, youths have been frequenting an area east of Jabalya RC, a rare open space in the congested Gaza Strip. Some stroll or rest. Others come to demonstrate, burn tires or throw stones at the perimeter fence. Several times Molotov cocktails were lobbed at the fence and its patrol. Soldiers positioned on the Israeli side of the perimeter fence use various measures – from tear-gas to live ammunition – to get the youths to back away from the fence. B'Tselem field researcher Muhammad Sabah documented the scene.
The military came to al-'Arrub R.C. twice in recent weeks and put up posters threatening harm to parents of sons who persist in "acts of terrorism" and "disturbances of the peace". Some posters featured photos of the parents, a serious breach of their right to privacy even a case of personal persecution. B’Tselem and ACRI applied to the Legal Advisor of the Judea and Samaria Division demanding that he end the unlawful use of scare tactics and punish the soldiers involved, and also that he inform the troops that such "initiatives" are unlawful.
On 5 Dec. 2013, the MAG Corps notified B’Tselem of its decision to close the investigation into the killing of Mustafa Tamimi by a tear-gas canister fired at him in Dec. 2011. The Corps claimed that the firing was done "according to the relevant rules and regulations and did not involve any illegality." The decision, two years after the incident, conveys the military’s indifference to the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank, and sends Israeli soldiers and officers the message that they will not be held accountable for killing unarmed civilians. In the meantime, this type of firing continues, and it is only a matter of time before yet another unarmed Palestinian civilian is killed in this way. B’Tselem will demand to see all the investigation material.
On 27 Nov. B'Tselem volunteer videographer Abu Ahmad documented clashes between Palestinian youth and soldiers in Beit Ummar. An officer fired a canister that hit him in the chest, while he filmed. Abu Ahmad was bruised and required medical treatment. The firing of tear gas canisters directly at individuals is a routine practice by security forces and has already claimed the lives of two people and injured dozens. The military continues to deny the existence of the practice and avoids addressing it systematically. B'Tselem will send the footage to the Military Advocate and demand an investigation by the Military Police Investigation Unit (MPIU) and held accountable.
4 and 1/2 years after Bassem Abu Rahmeh, 30, was killed when struck in the chest by a tear-gas grenade fired directly at him from close range, the state announced it is closing the case for lack of evidence. The announcement was made further to a High Court petition by Bassem’s mother, demanding an investigation into the killing of her son in April 2009 during a demonstration against the Separation Barrier in Bil’in. Three video segments prove that Abu Rahmeh was east of the barrier, did not act violently, and did not endanger the soldiers.
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.
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.
The military court trial of Nariman a-Tamimi and Rana Hamadah, two Palestinian women arrested at a non-violent demonstration in a-Nabi Saleh, will begin on 9 July 2013. This legal action is unprecedented, as there is no charge of violence. Moreover, the prosecution acknowledged it wishes to prevent the women from demonstrating – unacceptable grounds for arrest. B’Tselem: “The military prosecution’s handling of the matter, and particularly its unprecedented request to remand non-violent demonstrators for the duration of legal proceedings, raises the suspicion that the military might be exploiting these proceedings to keep Nariman a-Tamimi from carrying on her joint activity with her husband, Bassem, in a-Nabi Saleh’s struggle against the village being dispossessed of its land.”
Over the past three years, B’Tselem has documented 18 incidents in which demonstrators and photographers reported the use of pepper-spray in contravention of official police orders, with police pepper-spraying unarmed, non-violent civilians. Five of these incidents were captured on video. In the latest incident, a B’Tselem’s camera project volunteer was filming a demonstration in the village of a-Nabi Saleh when he was pepper-sprayed in the face by a Border policeman.
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.
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.
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.