Thursday, February 27, 2014

Amnesty: Israeli forces have been killing dozens in West Bank with near total impunity

Funeral of Samir Awad (16) who was killed in January 2013 with bullets in the back and the back of his head while running away from Israeli soldiers. (Reuters)   

Israeli forces have displayed 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, said Amnesty International in a report published today.
The report, Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank, describes mounting bloodshed and human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) as a result of the Israeli forces’ use of unnecessary, arbitrary and brutal force against Palestinians since January 2011.
Amnesty International has documented the killings of 22 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank last year, at least 14 of which were in the context of protests. Most were young adults under the age of 25. At least four were children.
According to UN figures, more West Bank Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in 2013 than the total number killed in 2011 and 2012 combined. Forty-five were killed in the past three years. In the last three years at least 261 Palestinians, including 67 children, have been seriously injured by live ammunition fired by Israeli forces in the West Bank. An astonishing number of Palestinians in the West Bank - more than 8,000, including 1,500 children – have been wounded by other means, including rubber-coated metal bullets and the reckless use of tear gas, since January 2011. In some cases documented, victims have also died as a result of their use.
“The staggering numbers of wounded provide a sobering reminder of the relentless daily danger faced by Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank,” said Philip Luther.

In all cases examined by Amnesty International, Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers did not appear to be posing a direct and immediate threat to life. In some, there is evidence that they were victims of wilful killings, which would amount to war crimes.
The report  highlighted a number of the deaths, including that of 21-year-old Lubna Hanash, who was shot in the head on January 23, 2013 as she left an agricultural college near the flashpoint city of Hebron.
Amnesty quoted witnesses saying a soldier opened fire some 100 meters from where she was standing. A female relative standing alongside her was shot in the hand. Neither had been taking part in any protest. Another killing saw 15-year-old Waji al-Ramahi shot in the back from a distance of some 200 meters in December 2013 near the Jalazun refugee camp, Amnesty said.
Samir Awad, a 16-year-old boy from Bodrus, near Ramallah, was shot dead near his school in January 2013 while attempting to stage a protest with friends against Israel’s 800km-long fence/wall, which cuts through their village. Three bullets struck him in the back of the head, the leg, and shoulder as he fled Israeli soldiers who ambushed his group. Witnesses said the boy was directly targeted as he ran away.
Malik Murar, 16, Samir’s friend who witnessed his killing, told Amnesty International:“They shot him first in the leg, yet he managed to run away… how far can an injured child run? They could have easily arrested him… instead they shot him in the back with live ammunition.”
Amnesty International believes Samir’s killing may amount to extrajudicial execution or a wilful killing, which is considered a war crime under international law.
“It’s hard to believe that an unarmed child could be perceived as posing imminent danger to a well-equipped soldier. Israeli forces appear in this and other cases to have recklessly fired bullets at the slightest appearance of a threat,” said Philip Luther.
 A statement issued by the IDF Spokesman charged Amnesty with having "completely ignored the significant rise in Palestinian violence over the past year," citing 66 terrorist attacks including shootings, the planting of bombs, attempted stabbings and the murder of a soldier.

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