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Human Rights Watch says Israel is ‘unlawfully’ killing Palestinians in occupied West Bank

May 9, 2024 at 2:43 pm

Relatives of the deceased mourn as Palestinians killed during an Israeli raid at Nur Shams camp are brought to the mortuary of Tulkarm Hospital in Tulkarm, West Bank on April 20, 2024 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

Israeli security forces have unlawfully used lethal force in the fatal shootings of Palestinians, including deliberately executing those who posed no apparent security threat, a new report from Human Rights Watch has revealed. The report, released yesterday, examined eight fatalities in four incidents between July 2022 and October 2023, concluding that Israeli forces wrongfully shot dead or deliberately executed Palestinians who posed no imminent threat to life.

The human rights organisation highlighted a disturbing pattern of excessive use of force by Israeli troops, coupled with a pervasive lack of accountability that has fostered a culture of impunity. Senior Israeli officials have even encouraged security personnel to use lethal force against Palestinians, even when they no longer present a threat.

Among the cases cited in the report is that of 15-year-old Taha Mahamid, who was shot dead in October 2023 while standing unarmed outside his home in the Nur Shams refugee camp. Minutes later, Israeli forces also shot and wounded his father, Ibrahim, as he tried to reach his son. Ibrahim succumbed to his injuries and died four months later. Video evidence and witness testimonies indicate that neither Taha nor Ibrahim posed any threat to Israeli forces at the time they were shot.

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Another incident, in Jenin, in December 2022 saw Israeli forces fatally shoot three Palestinian men, Sidqi Zakarneh, Tareq Damaj and Atta Shalabi, none of whom appeared to be engaged in violent acts or visibly carrying weapons. Disturbingly, Israeli troops continued to fire at Zakarneh as he lay injured on the ground, trying to crawl to safety.

Highlighting Israel’s impunity, Human Rights Watch noted that these killings took place in a context where Israeli forces face little prospect of being held accountable for abuses against Palestinians. Between 2017 and 2021, fewer than one per cent of complaints about Israeli troops’ mistreatment of Palestinians, including unjustified killings, led to criminal indictments, according to the Israeli rights group Yesh Din.

The report called on the international community to take concrete steps to ensure justice and accountability, including by supporting the International Criminal Court’s probe into alleged war crimes in Palestine and imposing targeted sanctions against those responsible for grave abuses. It also urged governments to suspend arms sales and military aid to Israel, given the clear risk of these weapons being used to commit further violations.

As Palestinians in the West Bank continue to suffer systemic discrimination, violence and repression under Israel’s 57-year-old illegal occupation, Human Rights Watch’s findings underscore the urgent need for international action to rein-in Israeli abuses and uphold the rule of law. The persistent lack of accountability for the wrongful deaths of Palestinians sends a dangerous message that Palestinian lives are disposable and that serious human rights violations will go unpunished.