Since today’s morning hours, Israeli soldiers have been shooting at Palestinian demonstrators standing on the other side of the fence surrounding Gaza. At least ten Palestinians have been killed so far, including one minor, and at least a thousand have been wounded. Shooting at unarmed demonstrators is illegal and any command allowing such an action is manifestly illegal. Yesterday, B’Tselem warned against relating to demonstration areas as combat zones and against shooting live fire at demonstrators. Armed soldiers and unarmed demonstrators are not “at war.” The illegal open fire regulations and the compliance with them are the reason for the number of dead and injured today in the Gaza Strip.
Ahead of the Palestinian demonstrations planned to start tomorrow (Friday) in Gaza, Israeli officials have repeatedly threatened to respond with lethal force. Completely ignoring the humanitarian disaster in Gaza and Israel’s responsibility for it, they are couching the planned protest in terms of a security risk, framing the demonstrators as terrorists and referring to Gaza as a “combat zone”. Fragments of information reported by the media indicate that: soldiers will be ordered to shoot anyone coming within 300 meters of the fence; snipers will fire at anyone touching it; live fire will be used also in circumstances which are non-life-threatening. In other words: shoot-to-kill unarmed Palestinians taking part in these demonstrations.
Al-Jalazun R.C., north of Ramallah, has a population of 14,000, including 5,000 minors. In 1977 the settlement of Beit El was established nearby, leading to permanent military presence in the area. Israeli soldiers and youths from the camp often clash. Over the past five years, Israel security forces have shot and injured some 160 Palestinians, killing six, incl. four minors. The injured do not receive compensation from Israel or recognition for the harm suffered, and those responsible are not prosecuted, allowing continued use of gunfire, sometimes lethal gunfire, a key component in Israel’s ability to maintain its violent control over millions of Palestinians.
In two of the incidents B’Tselem documented, settlers injured Palestinians and in one they killed and injured sheep. This is part of the violent routine of occupation in the West Bank. Israeli security forces are often on site during such incidents yet do nothing to stop them, and sometimes even take part in the attack. The authorities rarely take action against the perpetrators. This policy leaves Palestinians defenseless and effectively barred from many parts of the West Bank, for fear of assault, enabling the state to take over land and resources.
Every year, Israel arrests and detains hundreds of Palestinian minors, routinely and systematically violating their rights throughout: during arrest and interrogation, and at the military juvenile court. The minors undergo this process completely alone, cut off from their family and without legal counsel. Israel boasts of changes instituted in the military juvenile justice system in recent years, claiming significant improvement to the protections afforded minors. In practice, these changes have not helped safeguard minors’ rights and are no more than superficial matters of form designed to legitimize the military justice system and the occupation regime.
B’Tselem expresses its deep sorrow over the killing of Adiel Kolman, a 32-year-old father of four who lived in the settlement of Kochav Hashachar. He was fatally stabbed by a Palestinian in the Old City, East Jerusalem. B’Tselem conveys its sincerest condolences to the Kolman family. The deliberate targeting of civilians undermines every moral, legal and human standard. B’Tselem strongly condemns any and all deliberate attacks against civilians and calls once again on politicians and leaders to act responsibly and avoid fanning the flames of violence.
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.