On 15 Feb. 2015, the military prosecution informed B’Tselem it had denied the appeal against closing the investigation into the killing of Mustafa Tamimi, who was shot with a tear-gas canister while throwing stones at a military jeep in Dec. 2011. The prosecutor proposed a variety of scenarios, no matter how implausible, to absolve the shooter and his commanders of criminal liability. Yet again, this decision sends soldiers a message that they may act with nearly universal impunity in the Occupied Territories, and highlights the limitations of the law enforcement system which does not examine overarching issues and policy or the responsibility of senior officers.
On 10 October 2015, soldiers arrested six Gazan youths who crossed the perimeter fence into Israel during a demonstration and held them at a military base for three days. Three of them, minors, told B’Tselem they were held handcuffed out in the open, subjected to beatings and degradation, and denied food, drink and sleep. The fact that soldiers can so easily turn a military base into an exterritorial area in which they can treat minors as they please is, in part, due to a law enforcement system which has long enabled security establishment personnel to use violence against detainees, including minors, without any accountability.
In at least four cases, the lethal gunfire was entirely unwarranted: In Dec. 2015-Jan. 2016 five Palestinians were shot dead by the military near the Gaza perimeter fence, when protests were underway there. B’Tselem documented 14 similar cases in Oct. and Nov. 2015. B’Tselem found that in 4 of the killings the use of live fire was unjustified, excessive and unlawful. B’Tselem’s examination of the military’s conduct during demonstrations near the perimeter fence repeatedly indicates that though the military prepares in advance and the soldiers face no real danger, they resort to lethal fire without any justification, and no one is held accountable for these actions.
As of Jan. 2016 Israeli authorities stepped up efforts to expel Palestinian communities in the South Hebron Hills, Ma’ale Adumim area and the Jordan Valley, demolishing 73 homes and 51 other structures, some donated by aid agencies. Israel recently announced plans to demolish many more structures in Kh. Susiya, expel Abu a-Nuwar’s residents, and reported its failed mediation with Masafer Yatta. All are part of a policy whereby Area C is to serve Israel rather than West Bank Palestinians. Restrictions Israel imposes in Area C force all West Bank Palestinians to live in crowded enclaves without land reserves for building, farming, infrastructure, health and education services or freedom of movement.
On 13 Dec. 2015 soldiers fired tear gas into a home in al-Janiya during clashes. Yazan Mazlum and Yusef Shabayeh, both 17, went to help its inhabitants. According to testimonies given to B’Tselem, soldiers who came into the building dragged the boys away and beat them severely, alleging they had thrown stones. This is yet another instance of security forces using violence for alleged involvement in stone-throwing. That such incidents continue, although the responsible parties know of the phenomenon, raises concern that the military might consider them legitimate means. However, this type of violence is prohibited under any circumstance.
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.
Since 9 Oct. 2015 solidarity protests with West Bank Palestinians have been held in Gaza. B’Tselem found that 14 people have been killed and 379 wounded, mostly by live fire. Israeli soldiers stationed across the fence, dozens of meters away from protesters generally faced no mortal danger that would require use of live fire; they could have used crowd control measures instead. The large number of casualties indicates excessive use of live fire and raises concerns of unjustified, disproportionate and unlawful gunfire.
Since early Oct. the number of Palestinians shot by Israeli security forces at protests has risen sharply: five Palestinians were killed and hundreds injured in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem). A particularly high proportion of casualties in the Ramallah area were hit by live gunfire. In addition, military orders restricting gunfire to the lower extremities notwithstanding, many individual were hit in the upper body by rubber-coated metal bullets. All this suggests that security forces are responding with excessive force to protests and clashes.
On 27 Oct. B’Tselem’s Hebron researcher Manal al-Ja'bri was injured documenting a protest. A rubber-coated metal bullet fired by Israeli security forces fractured a finger in her left hand. She was filming clashes between security forces and Palestinian youth near the Bab a-Zawiya Checkpoint, Hebron. Al-Ja'bri, in a blue B’Tselem vest, was standing with a group of journalists across the street and at a distance from the Palestinian stone throwers. There was no apparent reason for security forces to fire at her or at other journalists there.
Following the Israeli military’s probe into the killing of ‘Abd a-Rahman ‘Obeid Allah, 13, in ‘Aydah R.C. by a 0.22 bullet, B’Tselem calls on Israel’s security forces to immediately cease use of this ammunition as a means of crowd control and to refrain from using live ammunition in non-life-threatening circumstances. Since January, 4 Palestinians have been killed and dozens injured by 0.22 bullets. B’Tselem has found ever increasing use of this weapon and that contrary to official statements it is neither regulated nor restricted. It is lethal and the plan to use it in East Jerusalem will have lethal consequences.
Seven years ago, a military officer fired a rubber-coated metal bullet at Eran Cohen’s leg at a demonstration against the Separation Barrier in Bil’in. Three and a half years ago, the MAG decided to close the investigation. B’Tselem appealed the decision two years ago, arguing there is sufficient evidence to indict the officer. In March 2015, the MAG Corps notified B’Tselem that the investigation had been reopened to try and glean new evidence from the video footage in the case file. B’Tselem had sent in the footage shortly after the incident.
On 25 Feb. 2015, the MAG Corps informed B’Tselem of the closing of the investigation into the killing of Palestinian teens Muhammad and Usayed Qadus in the West Bank village of ‘Iraq Burin in March 2010. The investigation had taken five years and its findings, as reported by the MAG Corps, are absurd: on the one hand, the investigation found that only rubber-coated metal bullets had been fired during the incident; on the other hand it corroborated that the two teens were killed by live ammunition, and there is no dispute that they were killed by the military. On the basis of these unreasonable findings, the MAG Corps decided to file no charges.
B’Tselem has recently documented dozens of cases near Ramallah in which Israeli security forces injured Palestinians, some of them severely, with live gunfire. Most injuries are apparently the result of.22 inch bullets, whose impact is less than that of “ordinary” bullets but can still cause grave, even fatal injuries. The regular use of live fire against demonstrators in breach of regulations indicates that it is part of a policy, an unlawful policy. B’Tselem calls on security forces to stop firing live ammunition at unarmed civilians, except in extreme cases of immediate mortal danger.
On 13 May 2011, Milad ‘Ayash, 17, was hit by a live bullet fired at him from the Beit Yehonatan settlement in Silwan, East Jerusalem. ‘Ayash died of his wounds the next day. Both the DIP and the Israel Police investigated the shooting; both closed their case files citing “perpetrator unknown.” B'Tselem appealed to the State Attorney’s Office against the decision to close the investigations, noting grave investigative failings. The negligence with which the investigations were conducted and the closing of the files evince disregard by Israeli authorities for Palestinian lives.
The mother of Bassem Abu Rahmeh, a resident of the West Bank village of Bil’in killed when a soldier fired a tear-gas canister at him, petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice yesterday demanding that the Court compel the Military Advocate General (MAG) and the Attorney General to reach a decision concerning the appeal over the closing of the investigation file, and to indict the soldier who fired the canister along with any others bearing military command responsibility for the killing of her son. In the petition, filed jointly with Israeli human rights organizations B’Tselem and Yesh Din, Subhiya Abu Rahmeh demanded that the Court put an end to the foot-dragging and the avoidance of conducting even the most basic investigative acts that could shed light on the identity of the persons responsible for killing her son.
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.