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Mass knee-capping of Palestinian youth


The IDF have increased their raids on the Dheisheh refugee camp from once a month or fortnight to, post-Lieberman, every day and/or night. They ransack houses and carry off any young male thought to have terrorist associations. Photo from BADIL.

Has Israeli defence minister changed IDF’s West Bank strategy?

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman’s plan for Palestinian towns and villages in the West Bank is already being implemented, even before its official launch.

By Shlomi Eldar, trans. Ruti Sinai, Al Monitor
August 30, 2016

On Aug. 17, Liberman presented a plan to deal with Palestinian terrorism by dividing Palestinian towns and villages into “green” ones whose residents have abstained from terror activity and “red” for those whose residents have engaged in attacks against Israelis. Israel would deal with the “red” ones with an iron fist, whereas the “green” ones would enjoy economic benefits and goodwill gestures.

In recent weeks, according to Palestinians who spoke to Al-Monitor, even before the plan’s official publication, Israel’s military activity in the West Bank has undergone a significant overhaul. Israeli troops conduct almost nightly operations in the refugee camps and in villages and towns whose residents have allegedly attacked Israeli targets. One of the main targets of this activity, according to the Palestinians, is the Dheisheh refugee camp south of Bethlehem. In addition, Israel Defence Forces (IDF) units conduct operations almost every night in Palestinian villages in the Hebron district.

Most of the military activity takes place in the part of the West Bank designated in the Oslo Accord as Area A, which is under the full civilian and military control of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). The IDF generally avoids entering the area, other than in emergencies. The reported nightly military activities reflect the new policy adopted by Israeli security forces — a policy that is the exact opposite of the strategy implemented in the past by former Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, who believed that any friction with the Palestinian population could increase the motivation of young people to carry out attacks and escalate tensions.

The spokesman for the Palestinian security forces, Col. Adnan al-Damiri, told Al-Monitor that the PA’s policy is to focus only on those harming Palestinian interests and operating against the explicit orders of President Mahmoud Abbas. “Palestinian interests” is a common way to refer to Palestinian security activities without suggesting that these activities constitute co-operation with Israel. It is a way of arguing that the Palestinian efforts to thwart attacks, including the arrests of young Palestinians on intelligence provided by Israel, are only designed to maintain law and order in the territories and protect Palestinians’ own interests.


An Israel Defence Forces operation in the Dheisheh refugee camp which, like the villages of Hebron governorate, is inside West Bank’s Area A and ostensibly under full Palestinian control. Above, funeral of Jihad al-Jaafari in Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem on Feb. 24, 2015. Photo by Luay Sababa/Xinhua

Damiri also said that given the tensions resulting from the intensive IDF activity, any wrong step, however small, could ignite a spark that could result in loss of control and chaos.

 

Majid Faraj, the PA’s intelligence chief and a resident of the Dheisheh refugee camp

 

 

 

Majid Faraj claimed in January that Palestinian security agencies had foiled some 200 attacks against Israelis since the current wave of terrorism began in October last year. The remarks by Faraj, whose father was shot dead by Israeli troops during the second intifada, drew harsh criticism on the Palestinian street and even threats to place him on a “blacklist” compiled by a group calling itself “the coalition of the young” that organizes demonstrations against the PA.

Now he faces a dilemma: IDF units are carrying out extensive activities in the refugee camp where his family lives, clashing with local residents, and he is supposed to instruct his forces to detain Palestinians suspected of planning attacks against Israel.

One of the best-known activists in Dheisheh told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that in the past Israeli troops would operate in the camp once every two weeks or even once a month, whereas now it has become a nightly routine. He said, “Every night we hear shooting, and I run to my daughters’ rooms to reassure them. Life here has become intolerable. We hear explosions at night and in the morning we get updates on the number of wounded and their condition.” The situation has become explosive, young Palestinians are being shot and left disabled and the motivation to retaliate is growing, he added.

Young residents of the camp recently claimed that an Israeli commander who is actually a Shin Bet operative told them that they would soon be invalids. These remarks, quoted by Palestinian media outlets, caused a storm, but were denied outright by the Israeli military spokesman.

“We call the Israeli commander in charge of the Dheisheh area ‘Nidal,’ that’s the name we’ve given him,” said the activist. “Now we have placed large signs at the entrance to the camp warning that we will not be silent in the face of additional harm to our young people. Signs reading ‘Nidal, beware, don’t enter the camp’ have been distributed throughout the Dheisheh refugee camp.”

Asked whether he had personally heard the Israeli commander’s alleged comments, he told Al-Monitor he had not, but added, “Facts on the ground speak for themselves.” Just in the past month, he said, dozens of young Palestinians have been injured by Israeli troops who broke into homes and fired indiscriminately.

The Palestinian information centre Badil issued a report Aug. 23 detailing the number of Palestinians injured in the nightly IDF raids in the past month, and included photos of dozens of young people it said were wounded by IDF gunfire directed at their legs. According to the data collected by the centre, 18 Dheisheh residents aged 17 to 27 were hurt, and Israeli military activity was also conducted in the nearby villages of Doha and al-Fawar in the Hebron district.

The report was issued before an Aug. 26 raid in Dheisheh, in the course of which two additional young Palestinians were injured. “Let’s be clear,” the activist told Al-Monitor, “in the past, the Palestinian security agencies operated here quietly and sensibly. Now Liberman comes in, pours a barrel of oil on the ground and is about to set the area on fire. Be careful.”


 

Israeli forces targeting Palestinian youth in the West Bank

Report by BADIL
August 23, 2016

The systematic targeting of Palestinians, particularly youth, by Israeli military forces throughout the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) has intensified since the beginning of 2016. This targeting has taken the form of injuries and arbitrary killings by the use of live ammunition by the Israeli army in the context of arrest campaigns, military raids and random searches which usually trigger clashes.

The preliminary investigation conducted by BADIL Resource Centre for Residency and Refugee Rights (BADIL) shows that these actions represent an Israeli policy that constitutes a grave breach of international law and could amount to an international crime. While these actions require international investigation, in particular by the International Criminal Court, the Palestinian National Authority must also take protective measures, especially considering that most of the breaches have been committed in the so-called Area A.

BADIL initiated an ongoing investigation into the events and actions carried out by Israeli forces in the West Bank, particularly in the Palestinian refugee camps that have been significantly targeted throughout July and August 2016. Preliminary examination of the actions in Dheisheh (Bethlehem) and al-Fawwar (Hebron) demonstrates the excessive use of force by the Israeli forces against Palestinian youth, and the residents of the refugee camps more generally. Further and more significantly, these actions have no grounds in international law given the circumstances in which force is being used and the kinds of weapons and ammunition employed.

Dheisheh refugee camp was raided three times by Israeli forces between the end of July and mid-August. During these three incursions 18 youth aged between 14 and 27 were shot in their legs, 8 of which were shot directly in the knee and several more in both legs. Four other youth from areas around Dheisheh were also shot in their legs during these incursions. On 22 August, Israeli forces raided the city of Doha, adjacent to Dheisheh, and shot at least one young person next to the camp. Since the beginning of 2016, 30 people have been shot with live ammunition in Dheisheh camp, the majority in their legs and knees. Medical sources have reported that these injuries cause both permanent and temporary disabilities. In addition, at least 83 people have been shot with live ammunition in the Bethlehem area during this period.

In the case of Dheisheh camp, the unjustified injuries were accompanied by threats from the Israeli commander responsible for that area, known as ’Captain Nidal.’ Captain Nidal made threats to youth from Dheisheh before, during and after the raids, and during interrogations and arrests. He made statements about his intention to injure the youth of the camp, including: “I will make all the youth of the camp disabled,” “I will have all of you walking with crutches and in wheelchairs,” “I will make half of you disabled, and let the other half push the wheelchairs, ”and “I will make all of you stand in line at the ATM waiting for your disability subsidies and assistance.”1 One of the injured youth told BADIL that Captain Nidal told him to tell his friends that “Nidal will make all of you disabled.”

These threats indicate that these actions are not accidental or isolated incidents, but rather result from a systematic Israeli military policy aimed at suppressing resistance, terrorizing Palestinian youth, and permanently injuring them and/or causing significant damage to their physical and mental well-being. The explicit threats by the Israeli army leadership show the willingness to commit criminal actsand raise significant concerns about the adherence of the Israeli forces to the tenets of international law.

Al-Fawwar refugee camp, located south of Hebron, was raided by the Israeli forces at dawn of 16 August 2016. During the invasion, which lasted around 24 hours, a 17-year old Palestinian was shot dead and 45 were injured. Israeli forces also ransacked homes and placed snipers on rooftops across the camp. In response to this incursion, clashes with the camp residents and youth erupted. The Israeli army responded with live ammunition, tear gas and rubber-coated bullets. Further, they did not permit medics to treat those injured and prevented a Palestinian ambulance from evacuating a seriously injured young man.2 Some of those injured reported the use of explosive bullets by the Israeli army, which are illegal according to international law.3

The escalating use of excessive force against Palestinians by Israel is alarming and illegal, as under international law. Providing that the Israeli military forces are not the initiators, the use of firearms is only permitted as a last resort in cases of imminent threat of death or serious injury or for self-defense, and the use of force must be strictly necessary and proportionate. Moreover, firearms should only be used when other measures have proved insufficient.4 The use of lethal force against Palestinians in this case does not fall under the justified grounds for using firearms and is therefore illegal. The aforementioned attacks are also prohibited by International Human Rights Law, which states that “violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture” is prohibited, and are also a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention considering the ‘protected’ status of the Palestinians who have been targeted. Article 32 of the Fourth Geneva Convention explicitly says that “prohibition applies not only to murder, torture, corporal punishments, mutilation […], but also to any other measures of brutality whether applied by civilian or military agents.“

These cases of intentional wounding, when added to the comparable actions happening in refugee camps such as Aida, al-Arroub, Kalandia, Am’ari and the West Bank at large, prove that these incidents amount to a systematic policy and an implementation of Captain Nidal’s threats. These willful and grave breaches of international law trigger the obligations of third party states and other mandated agencies to put an end to this climate of impunity under which Israeli forces and its officials operate.

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[1] Information gathered from interviews with youth from Dheisheh refugee camp.
[2] Maan News Agency, Israeli forces withdraw from devastated al-Fawwar, leaving Palestinian teen killed, 45 injured, 17 August 2016. Available at:  http://maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=772723
[3] ICRC, Practice Relating to Rule 78. Exploding Bullets, Customary IHL, available at: https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/customary-ihl/eng/docs/v2_rul_rule78  [Accessed 22 August 2016].
[4] United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials Adopted by the Eighth UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (1990), General Provision No 9.

 

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