Amnesty International: “Trigger Happy” Israeli Soldiers Killing Palestinian Civilians with Impunity
New report cites “callous disregard for human life,” says “war crimes” possibly committed
One of the world’s leading human rights groups has accused Israeli military and police in the illegally-occupied Palestinian West bank of possible war crimes.
Amnesty International released a report titled “Trigger Happy: Israel’s Use of Excessive Force in the West Bank” on Thursday. The report accuses Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and other security forces of “displaying a callous disregard for human life by killing dozens of Palestinian civilians, including children, in the occupied West Bank over the past three years with near total impunity.”
Amnesty also accused Israeli forces of using “unnecessary, arbitrary and brutal force” against Palestinian civilians who have been living under an economically, physically and psychologically devastating illegal occupation since being conquered by Israel in 1967.
“The report presents a body of evidence that shows a harrowing pattern of unlawful killings and unwarranted injuries of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces in the West Bank,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa director. “The frequency and persistence of arbitrary and abusive force against peaceful protesters in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers and police officers– and the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators– suggests that it is carried out as a matter of policy.”
Israel has long implemented policies designed to cause great suffering for Palestinians living under occupation in order to break their will to resist. Some Palestinians, including children, throw stones at Israeli tanks and troops out of anger and frustration stemming from nearly half a century of illegal occupation and humiliating oppression. Despite their overwhelming military superiority, Israeli forces have responded to stone-throwing youth by arresting and torturing them, breaking their bones as a matter of official policy, and, sometimes, by killing them.
Amnesty International has documented the killing of 22 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank last year. Fourteen of the victims were protesters. At least four were children. In the past three years, 45 Palestinian civilians have been killed. Some 261 Palestinians, including 67 children, have been seriously injured. Another 8,000, including 1,500 children, have been injured by rubber-coated steel bullets, chemical agents and other “less lethal” means during that same period.
Several victims have been shot in the back as they attempted to flee Israeli violence.
The report details the case of 16-year-old Samir Awad of Bodrus, near Ramallah, who was shot dead by Israeli forces while protesting last January. According to witnesses, Awad was shot first in the leg and then in the back and head as he desperately attempted to flee to safety.
“They could have easily arrested him. Instead, they shot him in the back with live ammunition,” lamented witness and friend Malik Murar.
Amnesty said Awad’s killing may amount to an extrajudicial execution or willful killing, both of which are considered war crimes under Israeli and international law.
“It’s hard to believe that an unarmed child could be perceived as posing in imminent danger to a well-equipped soldier,” said Luther. “Israeli forces appear in this and other cases to have recklessly fired bullets at the slightest appearance of a threat.”
Luther faulted Israel’s investigation and accountability process.
“The current Israeli system has proved woefully inadequate,” the report states. “It is neither independent nor impartial and completely lacks transparency. The authorities must conduct prompt, thorough and independent investigations into all suspected instances of arbitrary and abusive use of force, especially when resulting in loss of life or serious injury.”
Israel claims its actions are meant to secure the Jewish state from terrorism. Palestinians counter that Israel is stolen Palestinian land. They claim, correctly, that the territory that is today know as Israel was predominantly Arab from ancient times until well into the 20th century and that Jews never numbered more than 10 percent of the population during that period. Through land purchases, immigration and, later, terrorism and ethnic cleansing, Jewish migrants known as Zionists gained control of Palestine. Some 700,000 indigenous Arabs fled or were driven from their homes, often by force and sometimes by massacre, to make way for the modern Jewish state of Israel after World War II and the Holocaust.
Since gaining independence in 1948, Israel has been subjected to countless terrorist attacks by Palestinians and other Arabs who have resisted the reality of Israel’s existence. Israel has responded by launching numerous military operations against Gaza, the West Bank and neighboring countries, mainly Lebanon, that have resulted in tens of thousands of deaths.
Tagged Amnesty International, Amnesty International Israel, IDF, illegal occupation, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, israel war crimes, Israeli occupation, occupied West Bank, Palestine, Philip Luther, Samir Awad