‘ISRAELI FORCES MUST END THE UNLAWFUL KILLINGS OF PALESTINIANS!’ says Amnesty International

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AMNESTY International said Israeli forces – using intentional lethal force without justification – must end the pattern of unlawful killings carried out against Palestinians.

Based on the findings of an ongoing research trip to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the organisation documented in depth at least four incidents in which Palestinians were deliberately shot dead by Israeli forces when they posed no imminent threat to life, in what it said, ‘appear to have been extrajudicial executions’.

In some cases, the person shot was left bleeding to death on the ground and was not given prompt medical assistance, in violation of the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment, said the centre. ‘A clear pattern has emerged of lethal force being used unlawfully by Israeli forces following a wave of recent stabbing attacks by Palestinians against Israeli civilians and military or police forces in Israel and the occupied West Bank,’ said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

‘There is mounting evidence that, as tensions have risen dramatically, in some cases Israeli forces appear to have ripped up the rulebook and resorted to extreme and unlawful measures.’ He added that Israeli forces seem increasingly prone to using lethal force against anyone they perceive as posing a threat, without ensuring that the threat is real.

‘Intentional lethal force should only be used when absolutely necessary to protect life. Instead we are increasingly seeing Israeli forces recklessly flouting international standards by shooting to kill in situations where it is completely unjustified.’ The centre stressed that Israeli forces must end this pattern of unlawful killings and bring all those responsible to justice.

The centre cited the ‘egregious case’ of Sa’ad Muhammad Youssed al-Atrash, who was shot dead by Israeli forces in the Old City of Hebron as he attempted to retrieve an ID card at an Israeli soldier’s request on 26 October, stating that the Israeli police labelled the incident an ‘attempted stabbing’, but an eyewitness watching the events unfold from her balcony said he had posed no threat when he was shot.

The witness told Amnesty International that one of the soldiers asked al-Atrash for ID and as he reached into his pocket to grab his card another soldier standing behind him shot him on his right side. She said he was shot six or seven times and bled profusely as he lay on the ground for about 40 minutes afterwards, while soldiers failed to provide medical treatment.

She also reported seeing soldiers bring a knife and place it in the dying man’s hand. ”Then they put him on a stretcher and pushed him towards an ambulance but didn’t put him in. By this time he looked extremely yellow and I thought that he was dead at that point. He remained in front of the ambulance for another 20 minutes before he was put inside it and taken away,’ the witness said.

On 25 October, a short distance from where al-Atrash was killed, Israeli border police shot dead Dania Jihad Hussein Ershied, 17. Shortly before she was killed, she had passed through a checkpoint equipped with a metal detector and two revolving gates, between which Israeli forces frequently lock people they deem suspicious.

At a second checkpoint in front of Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque she was called for a second inspection by more than five border police officers, who began searching her bag and yelling at her to show her knife. Warning shots were fired at her feet, prompting her to step back and raise her hands in the air. She was shouting at the police that she did not have a knife and still had her arms raised when police again opened fire, shooting her six or seven times.

A photo of Ershied’s body shows a knife lying near the body, and the Israeli police spokesperson has stated that she attempted to stab a border policeman. However, even if Dania Jihad Hussein Ershied had a knife in her possession, eyewitness accounts indicate she was not posing a threat to Israeli forces when she was shot, and her killing is therefore absolutely unjustified.

Amnesty International has gathered evidence of other recent shootings in which Israeli forces used unwarranted lethal force in what were likely extrajudicial executions. On 4 October, Fadi Alloun, 19, from Issawiyya in East Jerusalem, was shot and killed by Israeli police near Jerusalem’s Old City, in another apparent extrajudicial execution.

Israeli police said he had a knife in his hand when he was shot, after stabbing a 16-year-old Israeli boy who was lightly injured. But video of the incident shows him being chased by a group of Israeli civilians before police arrived on the scene and shot him from some metres away, without attempting to arrest him.

Regarding the case of Hadeel al-Hashlamoun, who was shot dead on 22 September at a checkpoint in Hebron, Israeli forces said she was attempting to stab a soldier when they repeatedly shot her, but two eyewitnesses contradicted this account. Amnesty International has previously said the evidence indicates her killing was an extrajudicial execution.

‘Israeli forces and civilians have faced genuine attacks and threats to their lives over the past weeks. But heavily armed soldiers and police wearing body armour facing a possible knife attack have a duty to use proportionate and graduated force and attempt to arrest suspects before resorting to the use of lethal force,’ said Philip Luther. Unfortunately, Israel’s investigation systems have long served to perpetuate impunity for unlawful killings of Palestinians by Israeli military and police forces.’

The centre urged the Israeli authorities to conduct independent, impartial investigations into all these incidents, wilful killings of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which it described as ‘grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, over which all states can exercise universal jurisdiction’.

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, Israeli forces have killed more than 64 Palestinians as well as injured 7,200 others in the occupied West Bank and Israel since the beginning of escalated violence on October 1, 2015.

• Israeli forces on Wednesday afternoon stormed Al-Makassed Hospital in Jerusalem’s neighbourhood of al-Tur looking into patients’ files for the second consecutive day, said a medical source. Talal As-Sayyad, Secretary-General of the Al-Makassed Employee (Union), reported that Israeli soldiers stormed the hospital for the second consecutive day looking for outpatient medical files. No patient was detained although soldiers spread panic among patients and medical staff. As-Sayyed slammed soldiers’ intrusion into the hospital as ‘barbaric and savage’.

• Addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council, President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday said it is about time Israel’s leaders had the courage to make the right decisions before it is too late to make the two-state solution a reality.

Abbas opened up his speech by saying what they have warned against has happened. He said the current human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, is the worst and most critical since 1948. During his address, Abbas encouraged UN specialised agencies, member states and the UN Security Council, more than ever before, to set up a special procedure for the protection of the Palestinian people in an urgent and immediate fashion.

Abbas wondered whether the time has come for the international community to translate its remarks about achieving justice for the Palestinian cause into practical steps that would help achieve peace. The president explained that the current Palestinian uprising is just an inevitable result of Israel’s violations and crimes, which he has repeatedly warned against along with the international community’s failure to end the suffering and injustice inflicted upon the Palestinian people, especially youth.

‘Haven’t you wondered; for how long will this protracted Israeli occupation of our land last? For how long will our people remain dispossessed of the full and undiminished enjoyment of their rights as protected by international legitimacy. These, most notably, are their fundamental right to life and self-determination and their right to build their independent and sovereign state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and to live as human beings in accordance with the provisions of international conventions and treaties. Is that too much to ask?’