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From the field

B’Tselem reviews 2013: 5-year high in number of Palestinian fatalities in West Bank

No progress made in investigation of most of this year’s fatalities

Palestinian fatalities:

Three times as many people were killed in the West Bank in 2013 as were in 2012. This calculation is based on data compiled by Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. In contrast to the situation from 2003 to 2012 when most Palestinian fatalities occurred in the Gaza Strip, in 2013 the majority of Palestinian fatalities occurred in the West Bank. According to the data for the past year, Israeli security forces killed 27 Palestinians in the West Bank in 21 separate incidents and nine Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in seven incidents.

The incidents that resulted in fatalities in the West Bank include the following instances:

  • In nine incidents, Israeli security forces entered Palestinian communities for the purpose of what the military calls arrest operations: In four of these incidents, soldiers fired shots when stones were thrown at them; another four incidents involved exchanges of fire; regarding the last incident the Israeli military maintains that there were exchanges of fire, but B’Tselem has been unable to verify this information.
  • In three incidents, soldiers fired while lying in wait to capture stone-throwers.
  • In four incidents, soldiers discharged lethal gunfire when Palestinians were throwing stones.
  • Five incidents occurred under other kinds of conditions: one man was shot when he tried to enter Israel without carrying a legal entry permit; one woman passerby was shot by the military who argued that a Molotov cocktail had been lobbed in the area; one man was shot when he broke into a military base with a tractor; and one man was shot after allegedly assaulting a Border Police officer.

Of the Gaza residents killed: four were taking part in the hostilities when they were killed; three were not; regarding one, it is unknown whether or not he was taking part in the hostilities; and one was killed in a targeted assassination.

In addition, two Palestinians were killed in Israel this year, one a resident of the West Bank and the other of the Gaza Strip.

In contrast, in 2012, Israeli security forces killed 8 Palestinians in the West Bank and 246 in the Gaza Strip (including 167 during Operation Pillar of Defense), of whom 104 who were not taking part in the hostilities.

Israeli fatalities:

Palestinians killed three Israeli civilians this year, two in the West Bank and one near the Gaza perimeter fence. In 2012, four Israeli civilians in Israel were killed by Palestinians who launched rockets and shells from the Gaza Strip, whereas no Israeli civilians were killed by Palestinians in the West Bank. In 2013 Palestinians also killed three Israeli security forces personnel, in Israel and in the West Bank. The same figure as in 2012.

Investigations of killings

Two years and eight months have passed since the new investigative policy of the MAG Corps went into effect. In that time 35 Palestinians were killed by soldiers in 28 separate incidents. The Military Police Investigation Unit (MPIU) launched an investigation of 23 of the fatalities which occurred in 19 incidents.

To date, the MAG Corps has made a decision regarding only five of all incidents:

  • In one case a decision was made not to launch an investigation.
  • In three cases the investigative file was closed without adopting any measures against the individuals involved: In one case B’Tselem appealed the decision to close the file and in another B’Tselem is currently waiting to receive the material in the investigation file.
  • In another incident a soldier was indicted and then convicted by plea bargain based on his admission. The MAG Corps has yet to tender its decision regarding 21 cases:
  • Eleven cases are still under investigation or awaiting additional investigative material.
  • In four cases the MPIU investigation was completed. The file was sent to the MAG Corps and is awaiting its decision on the matter.
  • In six cases the MAG Corps has yet to decide whether to launch an investigation. Regarding five of these cases, the MAG Corps justified its position in that the person or persons killed do not meet the definition of “a civilian uninvolved in fighting”. In the sixth case, B’Tselem was informed that a “limited investigation” – the meaning of which is unknown to B’Tselem – was launched.

Regarding two other cases, B’Tselem does not know the investigation status.

Upon publication of the statistics, B’Tselem Director Jessica Montell said, “The sharp rise in fatalities in the West Bank only serves to intensify concern about lack of accountability. Admittedly, MPIU investigations are now launched almost automatically, yet the essence of the investigative mechanism remains unchanged. It is slow and cumbersome and decisions are made only years after an incident takes place. Such a mechanism, in which practically no one is held accountable for the killing of Palestinians, does not serve as a deterrent and indicates disregard for human life.”