Israel famously prides itself on having, in the words of Ehud Barak, “the most moral army in the world“. Some of Israel’s apologists even claim that accusations the country’s soldiers fire on civilians, including children, are nothing more than an anti-Semitic ‘blood libel‘.
Contrast this rhetorical bluster, however, with the carefully documented accounts since the start of the year by several human rights groups of Israeli forces’ targeting, and in many cases, killing unarmed Palestinian civilians.
In January, Human Rights Watch published a shocking account of Israeli soldiers “hiding near schools, apparently to make arrests” having killed “children who posed no apparent threat”. One example given was the case of Wajih al-Ramahi, a 15-year-old shot in the back in al-Jalazun refugee camp. The organisation noted a culture of impunity, with only 16 security officials indicted since September 2000 for unlawfully killing Palestinians, and just six convicted.
Now, Defence for Children International-Palestine Section (DCI-Palestine) has provided further evidence of what it calls “the use of live ammunition by soldiers to fire at unarmed Palestinian children” around al-Jalazun camp. On 3 March, the organisation published details of three teenagers shot by Israeli soldiers in recent weeks, including one shot in the neck with live ammunition, and another shot in the leg en route to a game of football.
These accounts fit with the detailed Amnesty International report published at the end of February, where the human rights group slammed “a callous disregard for human life” showed by Israeli forces in the West Bank. Documenting the killing of Palestinian civilians, “including children”, Amnesty described Israeli soldiers as using “unnecessary, arbitrary and brutal force”, including evidence of “wilful killings” that constitute “war crimes”.
Meanwhile, in the Gaza Strip, Israel is also shooting Palestinians with impunity. According to Israeli NGO B’Tselem, five civilians have been killed by Israeli forces near the perimeter fence in the last three months. The most recent case was the shooting to death of Amneh Qdeih, a 57-year old mentally ill woman who had apparently wandered off from a nearby family wedding.
Other victims included 16-year-old ‘Adnan Abu Khater, shot in the abdomen on 2 January by Israeli soldiers, dying the next day of his wounds. A B’Tselem field researcher documented 55 Palestinians injured by Israeli forces over a period of ten weeks – 43 from live fire, 10 from rubber-coated metal bullets, and 2 struck by teargas canisters.
DCI-Palestine has also reported on the targeting of Palestinians in Gaza, including 11-year-old Fadel Abu Odwan, shot by Israeli soldiers on 21 February, and left without medical attention for three hours. The doctor who treated Fadel said that the injury will cause “lifelong physical and psychological damage” and “will certainly affect his ability to marry and have children”.
DCI-Palestine cites figures from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) who documented Israeli forces killing 1 child and wounding 6 in the Gaza Strip thus far in 2014. PCHR co-published a report with the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) in February, detailing how Israeli forces killed 127 civilians in Gaza’s ‘no go areas’ near the fence and at sea between June 2007 and July 2013.
The Israeli government’s responses to such reports are almost comically desperate: Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor claimed that Amnesty’s report itself “smacks of…racism”. Daniel Taub, Israel’s Ambassador to the UK, accused Amnesty of an “obsessive focus on Israel“. In 2013, out of 846 ‘Reports’ and ‘Urgent Actions’ listed on Amnesty’s online library, only 14 – or 1.7% – are tagged ‘Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories’.
Human Rights Watch, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Amnesty International, DCI-Palestine, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, B’Tselem – these different human rights group agree on one, disturbing truth: Israeli soldiers are shooting Palestinian civilians.
Amnesty documented the killing of Samir Awad, a 16-year-old boy from Budrus village, shot dead near his school with three bullets to the back of the head, leg, and shoulder.
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