Amnesty International Warns Israel on West Bank 'War Crimes'

Rights Group Eyes 'Reckless' Soldiers in Killings of Palestinians

Spike in Killings: Amnesty International accuses Israel of allowing soldiers to kill Palestinians with impunity in the occupied West Bank. It warns that the killings could constitute ‘war crimes.’
getty images
Spike in Killings: Amnesty International accuses Israel of allowing soldiers to kill Palestinians with impunity in the occupied West Bank. It warns that the killings could constitute ‘war crimes.’

By Reuters

Published February 26, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Israeli forces are using excessive, reckless violence in the occupied West Bank, killing dozens of Palestinians over the past three years in what might constitute a war crime, Amnesty International said on Thursday.

In a report entitled “Trigger Happy”, the human rights group accused Israel of allowing its soldiers to act with virtual impunity and urged an independent review of the deaths.

The Israeli army dismissed the allegations, saying security forces had seen a “substantial increase” in Palestinian violence and that Amnesty had revealed a “complete lack of understanding” about the difficulties soldiers faced.

According to U.N. data, 45 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank between 2011-2013, including six children. Amnesty said it had documented the deaths of 25 civilians during this period, all but three of whom died last year.

“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, director of the Middle East and North Africa programme at Amnesty International.

Amnesty said that in none of the cases it reviewed did the Palestinians appear to be posing any imminent threat to life. “In some, there is evidence that they were victims of wilful killings, which would amount to war crimes,” the group said.

After a three year hiatus, Israelis and Palestinians resumed direct peace talks last July, which the Palestinians hope will give them an independent state on territory seized by Israel in the 1967 war, including the West Bank.

Although their decades-old conflict has become a low-intensity confrontation, violence still flares regularly, with Palestinians accounting for the vast majority of casualties.

SHOT IN HEAD

The 87-page report focused only on violence in the West Bank, not the adjacent Gaza Strip. It highlighted a number of the deaths, including that of 21-year-old Lubna Hanash, who was shot in the head on Jan. 23, 2013 as she left an agricultural college near the flashpoint city of Hebron.

Amnesty quoted witnesses saying a soldier opened fire some 100 metres from where she was standing. A female relative standing alongside her was shot in the hand. Neither had been taking part in any protest.

A few days earlier, 16-year-old schoolboy Samir Awad was shot three times, including in the back of the head, after staging a protest near the Israeli separation barrier that divides his village from its historical farmlands.

A third killing saw 15-year-old Waji al-Ramahi shot in the back from a distance of some 200 metres in December 2013 near the Jalazun refugee camp, Amnesty said.

An Israeli army statement responding to the report did not refer to any specific incidents, but said 2013 had seen a sharp increase in rock hurling incidents, which had injured 132 Israeli civilians and military personnel.

“Where feasible the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) contains this life threatening violence using riot dispersal means… Only once these tools have been exhausted and human life and safety remains under threat, is the use of precision munition authorized,” it said.

Besides the numerous fatalities, Amnesty said at least 261 Palestinians, including 67 children, were seriously injured by live ammunition fired by Israeli forces in the West Bank over the past three years.

More than 8,000 Palestinians were seriously injured by other means, including rubber-coated metal bullets, since January 2011, the report said.

During this period, just one Israeli soldier was convicted of wrongfully causing the death of a Palestinian - an unnamed staff sergeant who shot dead a Palestinian while he was trying to enter Israel illegally in search of a job.

The staff sergeant received a one year prison sentence, with five months suspended, and was allowed to stay in the army, albeit at a lower rank, Amnesty said.

Three other investigations over the past three years were closed without indictments, five were closed but their findings were not revealed and 11 are still open.

“The current Israeli system has proved woefully inadequate,” Amnesty’s Luther said. “A strong message must be sent to Israeli soldiers and police officers that abuses will not go unpunished.”

The IDF said it held itself “to the highest of professional standards”, adding that when there was suspicion of wrongdoing, it investigated and took action “where appropriate”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.