On 5 Dec. 2013, the MAG Corps notified B’Tselem of its decision to close the investigation into yea 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.
Use of firearms
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.
On 31 October 2013, Ahmad Tazaz’ah, 20, was killed in a market near Qabatiya, in the northern West Bank. According to B’Tselem’s inquiry, Tazaz’ah was killed by live ammunition fired by Israeli soldiers, and not in intra-Palestinian violence. According to the investigation, Palestinian youths threw stones at Israeli troops returning from an arrest operation in Qabatiya. The troops stopped near the market and responded with crowd control weapons and live fire. Tazaz’ah was hit by a live round in the chest. B’Tselem’s inquiry shows the soldiers were not in any real danger, raising a grave suspicion they breached open-fire regulations. B'Tselem conveyed its findings to the MAG Corps, which announced the opening of a "limited investigation," in light of the suspicions regarding the involvement of Israeli soldiers in the incident.
After Operation Pillar of Defense (Nov. 2012), an understanding was reached whereby Israel would ease restrictions on Palestinian access to farmland near the border. Previously, access to those areas–a third of Gaza Strip farmland–was strictly restricted, including by the use of live fire. B'Tselem has found that the military still limits access and does so with live fire. Israel must lift these restrictions, enabling farmers to work their land. As long as the restrictions remain, the military must refrain from using live fire to enforce them.
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.
According to B’Tselem’s initial investigation into the incident that took place this morning (26 August) in which three Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces’ fire in Qalandiya Refugee Camp, it appears that the stone-throwing was more massive today as the security forces remained in the camp until around 6:45 A.M., a busy hour on the street as the Palestinian school year started yesterday. Today’s harsh consequences cast doubt on their judgment in ordering the mission, and on the degree to which the force was prepared in advance. An investigation into the incident must be opened immediately to examine these issues.
Ibrahim Sarhan, 21, was shot and killed by soldiers in July of 2011, at the al-Far'ah refugee camp, in the Tubas district. The MAG corps decided not to serve indictments against the soldiers who killed him. In an appeal against the decision filed this month, B'Tselem claims that the investigation materials contain evidence that the fatal shooting of Sarhan was carried out in violation of the open-fire regulations and without any justification. This case illustrates the military's problematic conduct with respect to investigating the killing of Palestinians.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.