Israeli soldiers wearing gas masks point towards Palestinians during a protest against the annexation of Palestinian land in the village of Kafr Qadum, near Nablus, in the occupied West Bank. Photo by Jaafar Ashtiyeh / AFP
By Reuters/The National
January 28, 2013
RAMALLAH–Israel is breaking its own rules of engagement by using deadly force to disperse unarmed Palestinian protesters in the occupied West Bank, an Israeli rights group reported today.
Israeli forces have killed 56 people since 2005 in clashes with rock-throwing Palestinians, said B’Tselem, which accused the military of having “extensively and systematically” breached rules barring deadly retaliation for non-lethal assault.
“The Israeli military’s standing orders explicitly state that live ammunition may not be fired at stone-throwers,” it said.
In the past two weeks, Israeli forces have shot dead two Palestinians in unrest that Israeli officials said may foreshadow a third Palestinian uprising. Peace talks have been frozen since 2010 and Palestinian anger is running high against expanding Jewish settlement in the West Bank, captured along with east Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights in the 1967 war.
The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) said the B’Tselem report “presents a biased narrative, relying primarily on incidents that are either old or still under investigation by the military police”.
“The IDF does everything in its power to ensure that the use of riot dispersal means is done in accordance with the rules of engagement,” the IDF said.
Of the Palestinian fatalities since 2005, six were killed by rubber-coated metal bullets and two by tear-gas canisters, both supposedly non-lethal weapons that were fired directly at protesters, B’Tselem said.
“In practice, members of the security forces make almost routine use of these weapons in unlawful, dangerous ways, and the relevant Israeli authorities do too little to prevent the recurrence of this conduct,” the report said.
The other 48 protesters killed where hit by live ammunition, according to the group.
The protests come as sanctions imposed by Israel after Palestinians won de facto statehood recognition at the United Nations have crippled the Palestinian government in the West Bank and deepened economic malaise.
Faced with the threat of a general strike by the government workers’ union, top Palestinian officials have encouraged protesters to direct their anger against Israel instead.
By B’Tselem, media release
January 28, 2013
The full list of Israel’s crowd control weapons [is] revealed in a new report, Crowd Control: Israel’s Use of Crowd Control Weapons in the West Bank. [Such] weapons are supposed to be non-lethal, enabling authorities to enforce the law without endangering human life. However, they are still weapons that can cause death, severe injury and damage to property if used improperly. Since 2005, six Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank by rubber-coated metal bullets, another two when hit by tear-gas canisters fired directly at them, and at least two other Palestinians have been killed with 0.22-caliber bullets, which are used to disperse demonstrations despite official orders ostensibly to the contrary. Dozens of Palestinians have been seriously injured by use of these weapons. Additionally, security forces have killed at least 46 (please note change in number) Palestinians in the West Bank when firing live ammunition at stone-throwers.
In [the report] Israeli human rights group B’Tselem reveals the full list of crowd control weapons used by Israeli security forces in the West Bank, among them:
Tear gas – a chemical irritant that severely affects the eyes and the respiratory system. It is the predominant crowd control weapon in use by Israeli security forces and is dispersed through several types of grenades manufactured in the United States. The grenades can be hand thrown, fired from launchers or from jeep-top launching systems.
Stun grenades are the second most predominant crowd control weapon in addition to tear gas. They are a diversionary measure, whose explosion emits a bright light and a thunderous noise. The grenades are designed to cause fear and panic, thereby enabling security forces to overpower people. Like the tear-gas grenades in use by Israeli security forces, also the stun grenades are manufactured in the United States.
Rubber-coated metal bullets are utilized primarily against stone-throwers. Security forces use two types of bullets made of a metal core coated with either rubber or plastic, and fired from launchers mounted on rifle-barrels. These so-called “rubber” bullets are manufactured by Israel Military Industries Ltd. The Orr Commission prohibited the use of rubber-coated metal bullets within Israel’s borders. In East Jerusalem, since the prohibition, Israel Police has been using 40mm-caliber sponge rounds imported from the Unites States.
The Skunk is a foul-smelling liquid developed by the Israel Police for the purpose of dispersing demonstrations. It is sprayed from truck-mounted water cannons. The odor is so offensive that it forces any person in its vicinity to back off. The report also details the relevant orders of the military and the Israel Police which regulate the use of these weapons, and which the security forces refuse to divulge. In addition it surveys the implementation of the regulations in the field and the detrimental results of violating them.
B’Tselem’s research has found two main problems with the use of crowd control weapons in the West Bank. First, the wording of the open-fire and safety regulations is ambiguous, and in some cases the regulations cannot be properly followed.
Second, when security forces in the field violate the regulations, even systematically, practically no action is taken to put an end to this wrongful conduct. The most common and dangerous practices are firing tear gas canisters directly at people, and firing “rubber” bullets at short ranges or in violation of the regulations.
Members of the security forces who are faced with stone throwers, sometimes in large-scale events, have the authority to use the various weapons detailed in the report. However, the authorities must ensure that the troops on the ground obey the open-fire regulations and use crowd control weapons within the parameters that keep them non-lethal. It follows that every soldier, officer, or police officer violating these rules must be prosecuted. In addition, B’Tselem demands that Israeli security forces:
● prohibit the use of live ammunition, including 0.22inch-caliber bullets, for the purpose of dispersing demonstrations, except in instances of mortal danger;
● restrict the use of rubber-coated metal bullets to instances of mortal danger, to be used as a preliminary measure, before firing live ammunition;
● completely prohibit the firing of 40mm tear-gas canisters either directly at individuals or horizontally, in a way that could cause result in injuries.