Over the course of nine days in December, Israeli security forces shot and killed three Palestinians in the West Bank, alleging that they had attempted to attack Israelis by car - incidents that never occurred. All three victims were shot although they were not endangering the lives of the security forces or of anyone else. Their death is a direct outcome of the reckless and illegal open-fire policy that permits, and retroactively supports, lethal fire in situations that do not justify it.
11 Dec. 2018: 'Omar 'Awwad (24) was fatally shot in the back by security forces as he was driving away from them, on his way back from work smelting copper. The police claims that the forces fired live bullets at ‘Awwad’s back because they suspected he had attempted to run them over. None of the forces were injured. None provided ‘Awwad with medical assistance.
13 Dec. 2018: Hamdan ‘Ardah (58) was fatally shot by soldiers while he was driving to the industrial zone in al-Birah, apparently after he was startled by their presence. According to media reports, ‘Ardah accidentally ran into a soldier, who was lightly injured. The soldiers fired at ‘Ardah intensively and did not stop even after he had been hit and the car had come to a halt. They prevented a medical crew that arrived on the scene from approaching ‘Ardah.
20 Dec. 2018: Qassem ‘Abassi (17) was fatally shot in the back as the car he was traveling in with three relatives, as part of a leisure trip to Nablus, was driving away from the Beit El-DCO checkpoint. The soldiers were in no danger – neither when the car was near the checkpoint nor as it drove away.
These incidents are the direct, predictable outcome of the reckless and illegal open-fire policy applied in the West Bank. This policy allows security forces to use lethal force even in situations in which real danger is not posed to anyone. The appalling disregard for the lives of Palestinians is continued with the forces not providing medical aid for the injured or allowing medical crews to do their job.
Following the killing of ‘Abassi, the third victim, the Commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, Brigadier General Eran Niv, stated: “We are killing people that we didn’t mean to kill.” Yet this accurate remark by a senior officer is unlikely to have any impact on the ground. Although the ramifications of this criminal policy have been known for a long time, it remains in force and the orders have not been changed. Moreover, hundreds of previous deaths caused by this policy have been whitewashed in the past, and the MAG Corps can be expected to do a thorough job of whitewashing these three latest cases as well. Given the lack of accountability, combined with a public atmosphere fed by the statements made by politicians and policy makers who encourage opening fire, unjustified lethal shootings of Palestinians who are not endangering anyone are sure to continue.
The killing of ‘Omar ‘Awwad, west of the town of Idhna, 11 Dec. 2018:
At about 8:00 A.M. on Tuesday, 11 Dec. 2018, ‘Omar ‘Awwad, 24, who lives in the town of Idhna, west of Hebron, traveled to an area close to the Separation Barrier to smelt copper, which he sells for a living. At about 9:00 A.M., as he was driving back, he reached an intersection on the western outskirts of Idhna where a security force vehicle was blocking the right turn. ‘Awwad turned left, to a road that goes up to the town. Two security forces personnel who were standing by the vehicle that was blocking the intersection opened fire on his car from a distance of about 15 meters, while it was moving away from them. ‘Awwad was hit, swerved off the road and stopped. According to testimonies taken by B'Tselem, ‘Awwad was still alive at this point, but the security forces personnel on the scene did not provide him with any medical treatment. Residents who arrived there attempted to remove him from his car, but it was about 15 minutes before he was taken to hospital in a Red Crescent ambulance. He was pronounced dead upon arrival. According to information provided to B'Tselem, he was injured in the back by live bullets.
Immediately after the incident, the police made the following announcement: “A short while ago, Border Police fighters opened fire at a Palestinian vehicle suspected of attempting to run them over while they were securing Civil Administration operations in the town of Idhna. No-one was injured in the incident.”
The killing of Hamdan ‘Ardah, al-Birah, 13 Dec. 2018:
On Thursday, 13 Dec. 2018, a Palestinian opened fire at a hitchhiking stop near the entrance to the settlement of Givat Assaf, east of Ramallah. He killed two soldiers and seriously injured another soldier and a woman. Following the attack, the military undertook searches in al-Birah, north of Ramallah.
At about 4:30 P.M., Hamdan ‘Ardah, 58, a resident of Ramallah, was driving from his home towards the the al-Birah industrial zone, where there is a factory he managed. A group of soldiers were standing behind a sharp bend in the road, while another was conducting a search in a nearby building owned by a commercial company. When ‘Ardah reached the sharp bend, he slowed and changed course towards the entrance to the building, presumably after the surprise of finding soldiers on the scene. The soldiers shouted at him and immediately opened heavy fire at his car. According to media reports, the car hit one of the soldiers, injuring him lightly. A video segment obtained by B'Tselem clearly shows that the shooting at ‘Ardah continued after he had been hit and his car had stopped. About ten minutes later, an ambulance from the Palestinian Red Crescent arrived on the scene, but the soldiers prevented the medical crew from approaching the car. After about 20 minutes, a military ambulance arrived and evacuated ‘Ardah. Israel is holding his body and refuses to return it to his family.
On the day of the incident, the IDF Spokesperson claimed that “a terrorist attempted to use his vehicle to run over IDF fighters engaged in operational activities. One IDF fighter was lightly injured. The security forces on the scene responded by shooting and neutralizing the terrorist.”* However, according to media reports, the military has not defined this incident as a “vehicle attack.”
*This is the translation of the military's Hebrew tweet
Video: The shooting at ‘Ardah continues even after his car had stopped
The killing of Qassem ‘Abassi, Beit El-DCO checkpoint, 20 Dec. 2018:
On the evening of Thursday, 20 Dec. 2018, four members of the ‘Abassi family, who live in Ras al-‘Amud, east of Jerusalem, were traveling toward Nablus. Near the Givat Assaf intersection, the four encountered a traffic jam. A police officer who was standing nearby informed them that the road to Nablus was blocked, and they turned around and drove toward Ramallah, through an area with which they were unfamiliar. When they reached the roundabout close to the Beit El-DCO checkpoint, they turned right toward the village of Beitin. After realizing that they were going the wrong way, they turned around and headed back toward the roundabout. The soldiers called out to them to stop and fired live ammunition, which the military claims was fired in the air. When the four returned to the roundabout near the checkpoint, they again mistakenly turned toward Jerusalem. Other soldiers in the vicinity of the checkpoint fired live ammunition directly at them. The shots struck the left doors and wheels of the car, and hit two of the passengers. Qassem ‘Abassi, 17, who was sitting behind the driver, was killed. The driver was injured by shrapnel but managed to continue driving. After about a minute, when the car was hundreds of meters from the checkpoint, a military jeep approached from behind and ordered the driver to stop. Two soldiers got out of the jeep and ordered the passengers to get out and to remove Qassem ‘Abassi.
‘Abassi was taken away in a military ambulance. After about an hour, the other three occupants of the car were also taken away in an Israeli ambulance that arrived. According to media reports, the autopsy results show that ‘Abassi was shot in the back from behind. The same evening, the military claimed that “a short while ago, a vehicle broke through the Focus Checkpoint… a force on the scene opened fire in response.” The next day, the military announced that the car had not, in fact, broken through the checkpoint.