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From the field

Apologies aren't enough – the IDF must investigate those responsible for the death in Tulkarm

Update: On 9 August 2006 the Military Advocate General Corps informed B’Tselem it would not initiate an investigation. The MAG Corps said its decision was based on the fact that the man wanted by the Israeli military was hiding in 'Itaf Zalat’s home and was aided by a member of her household. The military force called on the occupants of the house to come out. Only after it determined that the occupants were not coming out, was the force compelled to open fire, which may have killed ‘Itaf Zalat and injured her daughters. Therefore, there was no flaw in the soldiers’ conduct to justify an investigation.

The circumstances under which 'Itaf Zalat, a 44-year old woman, was killed in Tulkarem last night, raise the grave suspicion that Israeli security forces acted as if they were conducting an assassination rather than an arrest operation. Such behavior constitutes a blatant violation of the principles of International Humanitarian Law.

B'Tselem has yet to complete its investigation into the incident. However, its initial findings indicate a clear similarity between the security forces' behavior in this incident and those in past arrest operations in which innocent civilians were killed. In past cases investigated by B'Tselem, and documented in the organizations 2005 report Take No Prisoners, soldiers used lethal force without being in any life threatening situation, demonstrating a pattern of indifference to the safety of Palestinian civilians.

Between January 2004 and May 1, 2006, 157 Palestinians were killed in what the IDF terms arrest operations in the West Bank . Of these, at least 35 were civilians, whom the military admits were mere bystanders to the operation. An additional 54 of those killed were defined as wanted by the military. However, they were either unarmed or did not attempt to use their weapons at the time they were killed.

B'Tselem emphasizes that the military's expressions of regret and the promise to conduct a field debriefing are insignificant. The Judge Advocate General must immediately order a military police investigation of the incident.