In 2000 the Israeli military blocked the road linking the southern Hebron neighborhood of Khirbet Qalqas (pop. 3,000) with the rest of the city. Ever since, residents have had to cross Route 60 on foot or travel by a roundabout route to reach the rest of the city. Six Palestinians have been killed crossing Route 60 in recent years. The military ignores residents’ demands to reopen the access road, and has met their protests with stun grenades and teargas. This is but another case of Israel’s repeated abuse of power, making decisions that radically disrupt Palestinians’ lives without consulting them. This situation will end only when the occupation does.
B’Tselem’s investigation has found that soldiers fired teargas at men, women and children engaged in peaceful activities in tents pitched hundreds of meters from the fence during the recent Gaza protests. This is neither lawful nor justified: Israel has no right to disperse demonstrations inside Gaza or tell Gazans where they can be. It certainly may not fire teargas at demonstrators hundreds of meters from the fence who pose no threat to a soul.
In Feb. 2018 B’Tselem documented two cases in the Ramallah area in which soldiers, in contravention of the military’s own open-fire regulations, fired crowd control weapons at the heads of children. In both cases, neither the soldiers nor anyone else was in mortal danger. Muhammad Nubani, 14, was injured in the eye by a rubber-coated metal bullet; Saleh Yihya, 10, was hit in the head by a teargas canister fired directly at him. These children, like hundreds of others in the West Bank, will bear the lifelong consequences of a reality in which soldiers can fire unlawfully without anyone being held to account.
On 10 Mar. 2018, 20-30 settlers accompanied by three armed soldiers came from Yitzhar to ‘Urif village land. The settlers and villagers exchanged stones, and the soldiers fired crowd control measures and live ammunition at the Palestinians. After the settlers left, the soldiers remained and villagers threw stones at them. One soldier shot and killed ‘Omayr Shhadeh, 19, and injured a boy of 14. This is another instance in which soldiers protected settlers who enter Palestinian land and throw stones at local residents, while Israeli authorities consistently do not enforce the law in such cases.
Since the wave of protests near the Gaza-Israel fence began on 30 March 2018, the Israeli military has killed 32 Palestinians in Gaza, 26 of them demonstrators, and injured more than 1,000 with live fire. Despite the heavy toll on life and limb, all state and military officials refuse to cancel these manifestly unlawful open-fire orders and continue to issue – and justify – them. Ahead of this Friday’s demonstrations (13 April), B’Tselem has issued a position paper on its findings regarding the first day of protest, analyzing the illegality of orders to shoot at unarmed demonstrators who pose no danger to anyone.
On 9 March 2018, during clashes between Palestinian youths and soldiers in Jericho, soldiers detained passer-by ‘Abd a-Rahim Gheith and commandeered his car, hiding behind its doors while firing at the demonstrators. Gheith was handcuffed and made to sit on nearby for some two hours. He sustained multiple injuries from stones thrown at the soldiers, his car was damaged and he required hospital treatment. This instrumental use of a passer-by, at real risk to his life, illustrates the routine abuse of military power that is West Bank reality.
Tomorrow (Thursday) B'Tselem will launch a campaign entitled “Sorry Commander, I cannot shoot”. The campaign will include newspaper advertisements clarifying to soldiers that they must refuse to open fire on unarmed demonstrators. The organization is taking this unusual step following last Friday’s events, when soldiers used live fire against unarmed demonstrators. Of at least 17 Palestinians killed that day, 12 were killed at the protests. Hundreds more were injured by live gunfire.
Israel’s regime of occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations. B’Tselem strives to end the occupation, as that is the only way forward to a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all people, both Palestinian and Israeli, living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.