During the past 14 months, 5 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank by soldiers who ambushed them. The latest was Saji Darwish, who was killed two days ago (10 March 2014) by a bullet to the head in what the military characterized as "an ambush to catch stone throwers. The military stated that the soldiers fired at a Palestinian who threw stones at an Israeli car and bus. B'Tselem has yet to locate eye witnesses to the incident, but a neighbor who overheard the incident identified live firing sounds only.
No information was provided as to the directions the soldiers received, whether they were instructed to try and arrest the stone throwers, and whether they were armed with crowd control weapons or live ammunition only. It is unclear whether officers made it clear that live ammunition can be fired only under mortal danger.
The military must open a criminal investigation of the incident. It should examine not only the soldiers' actions, and whether an attempt was made to arrest Darwish or use less lethal measures, but also command responsibility for the incident, the open fire regulations given to soldiers, and the decision to set up an ambush instead of positioning soldiers openly in the area.
Soldiers must not set up ambushes intended to catch stone throwers, armed with only lethal weapons. Soldiers on these operations must also be equipped with less lethal means such as tear gas and rubber coated metal bullets. It must be made clear to the entire chain of command that firing live ammunition is only permitted at people who are endangering the lives of soldiers or other persons.
Past incidents in which Palestinians were killed by soldiers who ambushed them:
On 15 January 2013, 16-year-old Palestinian Samir ‘Awad was killed by live ammunition that Israeli soldiers fired at him 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.
At around 4:30 PM on Saturday, 7 December 2013, a soldier stationed outside the fence surrounding the settlement of Beit El fired at Wajih a-Ramahi, 15, hitting him in the back. A-Ramahi was taken from al-Jalazun R.C. to hospital in Ramallah, where he died of his wounds shortly after arrival.
On 3 April 2013, at around 10:00 PM, soldiers standing near the guard tower at the ‘Anabta/Einav checkpoint shot and killed two Palestinians – ‘Amer Nassar, 18, and Naji al-Balbisi, 19 – both of ‘Anabta. Press reports indicate that the soldiers had advance warning of the Palestinians’ approach to the checkpoint and were waiting for them outside the military guard tower. One of the Palestinians threw a Molotov cocktail at the checkpoint.
Updates: regarding the killing of Samir ‘Awad: An MPIU investigation was opened on 15 January 2013. On 13 May 2013 the MAG Corps informed B’Tselem that the case had been sent for further investigation. On 5 January 2014 the MAG Corps informed B’Tselem that the additional investigation has been completed and the material sent to a military prosecutor for review. On 27 March 2014 Ahmad ‘Awad, Samir ‘Awad’s father, petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice together with B’Tselem, demanding that the court oblige the MAG to decide whether to indict the soldiers who killed his son or close the case file. On 30 December 2015, the Central District Attorney’s Office indicted the two soldiers who fired on charges of “reckless and negligent act using a firearm”. Their trial began on 22 September 2016 at the Ramla Magistrates Court. For additional updates, see here. Regarding the killing of ‘Amer Nassar and Naji al-Balbisi: An MPIU investigation was opened on 7 April 2013. On 14 November 2013, the MAG Corps informed B’Tselem that the case had been sent to a military prosecutor for review. On 1 May 2014 the MAG Corps informed B’Tselem that the case had been closed, citing insufficient evidence for criminal proceedings against any military entity or personnel involved in the incident. Regarding the killing of Wajih a-Ramahi: On 15 December 2013 the MAG Corps informed B’Tselem that an MPIU investigation had been launched. On 13 January 2015 the MAG Corps informed B’Tselem that the case was under further investigation. On 15 July 2015 the MAG Corps informed B’Tselem that the case was still under further investigation. Regarding the killing of Saji Jarab’ah: On 12 March 2014 the MAG Corps informed B’Tselem that an MPIU investigation had been launched. On 15 July 2015 the MAG Corps informed B’Tselem that the case had been sent to a military prosecutor for review.