IN a detailed report released by Amnesty International, the organisation has shed light on a dramatic increase in the deployment of unlawful lethal force by Israeli forces against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
While global attention has largely been diverted towards Gaza, this period has seen Israeli forces launch a severe onslaught of violence against Palestinians, marked by illegal killings through unnecessary or disproportionate use of lethal force during protests and arrest operations, as well as the deliberate withholding of medical aid to the wounded.
Amnesty International conducted in-depth investigations into four specific incidents – three in October and one in November – that epitomise the use of unlawful lethal force by Israeli forces, leading to the deaths of 20 Palestinians, among whom were seven children.
The year 2023 saw at least 507 Palestinians killed in the West Bank, including a minimum of 81 children, marking it as the deadliest year for Palestinians since the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) started recording casualties in 2005.
Since October 7, the use of unlawful force by Israeli security forces in law enforcement operations across the West Bank has been relentless, instilling fear and intimidation among entire communities. This force was also used to disperse rallies and protests in solidarity with Gaza and demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners and detainees.
Between October 7 and December 31, 2023, 299 Palestinians were killed, marking a 50% increase compared to the first nine months of the year. At least 61 further Palestinians, including 13 children, have been killed so far in 2024 as of January 29, according to the OCHA.
Israel’s long history of using excessive and often lethal force to suppress dissent and enforce its apartheid system against Palestinians has led to a historic pattern of unlawful killings committed with impunity.
Following October 7, Israeli forces have increased the frequency of raids, conducting them almost daily across the occupied West Bank as part of what it describes as search and arrest operations.
According to OCHA, over 54% of the 4,382 Palestinians injured in the West Bank were hurt during such operations.
Amnesty International’s investigation into a particularly brutal 30-hour-long raid on Nour Shams refugee camp in Tulkarem, starting on October 19, exemplifies the excessive force used by Israeli military and border police forces.
This operation resulted in the deaths of 13 Palestinians, including six children, four of whom were under the age of 16, and led to the arrest of 15 people.
Israeli military sources, cited in media reports, acknowledged that one Israeli Border Police officer was killed and nine were injured after Palestinians threw an improvised explosive device at them.
Residents recounted to Amnesty International how, during the operation, Israeli soldiers forcefully entered more than 40 residential homes, wreaked havoc on personal belongings, and drilled holes in walls to create sniper positions.
The forces also cut off water and electricity to the camp and employed bulldozers to demolish public roads, electricity networks, and water infrastructure, causing significant damage to the community’s basic services.
One of the fatalities during this raid was 15-year-old Taha Mahamid, fatally shot by Israeli forces in front of his home as he emerged to check if the forces had departed the area.
Taha was unarmed and posed no threat at the time of his death, a fact corroborated by witness testimonies and video evidence reviewed by Amnesty International.
A distressing video captured by one of Taha’s sisters, which Amnesty’s Crisis Evidence Lab verified, shows the moment Taha, upon peeking out to check for the presence of soldiers, collapses on the street outside his house after the sound of three gunshots rings out.
Fatima, Taha’s sister, recounted the swift and merciless action taken against her brother: ‘They did not give him a chance. In an instant, my brother was eliminated. Three bullets were fired without any mercy.
‘The first bullet hit him in the leg. The second – in his stomach. Third, in his eye. There were no confrontations … there was no conflict.’
In a heart-wrenching turn of events, when Taha’s father, Ibrahim Mahamid, attempted to carry his wounded son to safety, Israeli forces shot him in the back.
A video, verified and filmed by one of Taha’s sisters immediately after the shooting, captures the moment Taha’s father lies on the ground next to his son before managing to limp away.
Fatima Mahamid lamented, ‘He (her father Ibrahim) raised his hands, showing the soldiers that he had nothing in them. He just wanted to take his son. They shot him with one bullet, and my father fell next to Taha.’
Ibrahim Mahamid sustained severe internal organ damage and required intensive care treatment.
The unnecessary use of lethal force in these circumstances, where neither Taha nor Ibrahim Mahamid posed any threat to security forces or others, is indicative of possible war crimes of willful killing and willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health that demand thorough investigation.
Approximately 12 hours after the tragic death of Taha Mahamid, Israeli military forces conducted a raid on his family’s home, confining his family members, including three young children, in a room under the watch of a soldier for about 10 hours.
They drilled additional holes in the walls of two rooms to station snipers with a view of the neighbourhood.
Witnesses reported that the soldiers conducted a search of the house, during which they physically assaulted a family member, and one soldier was observed urinating on the doorstep, further violating the dignity and rights of the inhabitants.
Verified videos by Amnesty International show Israeli military bulldozers causing extensive damage to the narrow streets of the Nour Shams refugee camp.
Additionally, a video posted by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and verified by Amnesty’s Crisis Evidence Lab depicts the significant destruction to a road within the Nour Shams refugee camp, severely hindering the medical evacuation of the injured during the raid.
A particularly egregious case occurred on October 13 in Tulkarem, where two eyewitnesses reported to Amnesty International that Israeli forces positioned at a military watchtower and on the roof of a nearby home opened fire on a crowd of at least 80 unarmed Palestinians peacefully demonstrating in solidarity with Gaza.
Two journalists present at the scene independently told Amnesty International that they observed Israeli forces firing two tear gas canisters at the crowd before opening live fire without any warning shots.
These journalists witnessed four individuals being shot and injured as they attempted to flee the shooting. Shortly thereafter, Israeli forces also targeted the journalists, despite their clear identification as press members, forcing them, along with three children, to seek cover behind a wall for approximately two hours as the operation continued.
In another incident on November 27, Israeli forces used excessive force against a gathering of Palestinians in Beitunia, near Ramallah, who had assembled to welcome prisoners released from Ofer prison as part of a deal between Israel and Hamas during a temporary humanitarian pause in Gaza.
Witnesses described to Amnesty International how the Israeli military fired live ammunition and rubber-coated bullets at the crowd and deployed tear gas canisters using drones. Additionally, Israeli forces utilised a military bulldozer and drove military jeeps into the assembled Palestinians.