Israel’s separation wall pictured from Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem. Photo by Charlie Hoyle
By Megan Hanna, Ma’an news
October 30, 2015
On October 29, Israeli military forces issued a disturbing message to residents of Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, telling them that unless they stopped throwing stones “we will gas you until you die.”
Israeli military forces raided the camp and fired tear gas and flash grenades indiscriminately at people’s windows, balconies, and down the narrow streets, allegedly in response to Palestinian youths throwing stones at the Israeli separation wall that borders the community.
During the raid, an Israeli soldier in a military vehicle addressed theprotestersand residents of the camp through a loudspeaker in Arabic. The disturbingincidentwas caught on film.
“Inhabitants of Aida, we are the Israeli occupation forces, if you throw stones we will hit you with gas until you die. The children, the youth, and the old people, all of you – we won’t spare any of you”.
During the assault of theprotesters,Qassan Abu Aker, 25, was arrested. The speakerphone announcement continued, “We have arrested one of you, he’s with us now. We took him from his home, and we will kill him while you’re watching as long as you throw stones.”
The chilling message concluded: “We will blind your eyes with gas until you die, your homes, your families, brothers, sons, everyone”.
Subsequently after the announcement, Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets indiscriminately in the streets.
The use of force was so extreme that children from Aida’s two communitycentersand residents of nearby houses had to be evacuated to another part of the camp, and at least one youth was taken to hospital with respiratory problems.
The clashes are part of a spate of violence that has unfolded across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory over the past month, in which at least 64 Palestinians and 9 Israelis have been killed.
Alongside the disconcerting language used to inspire terror among the residents — the majority of whom weren’t involved in the stone throwing — the film provides evidence of a member of the Israeli army admitting to the potentially lethal application of tear gas.
Video on Facebook of threats in Aida refugee camp. [English sub-titles]
Last week, on Oct. 21, Hashem al-Azzeh, 54, died in Hebron due to excessive tear gas inhalation used by Israeli forces to subdueprotesters, and two days earlier an elderly woman in the Batan el-Hawa area of Silwan, East Jerusalem, died from the effects of tear gas fired during clashes.
“In this statement, we see — among a range of potential criminal offences — a public threat to kill Palestinian civilians, and to execute a prisoner,” Simon Reynolds, Legal Advocacy Coordinator at the BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, told Ma’an.
“Though such threats are appalling, they are not necessarily surprising. In light of the mounting civilian death toll among Palestinians, such threats merely add words to the deed.
“What we are seeing is an apparent policy of lawlessness in which Israeli forces can wield deadly force with virtual impunity. Especially troubling is that this is a policy that seems to have, at the very minimum, the tacit acceptance of the highest levels of government.”
IDF soldiers stand with their weapons during clashes with Palestinian demonstrators in the West Bank city of Hebron, on Tuesday, October 13, 2015. Photo by Nasser Shiyoukhi /AP
Numerous rights groups have publicly condemned Israel’s disproportionate military response while policing demonstrations and responding to alleged attacks.
“Indiscriminate or deliberate firing on observers and demonstrators who pose no imminent threat violates the international standards that bind Israeli security forces,”Kenneth Roth, executive director of Humans Rights Watch said on Oct. 11, after a HRW research assistant was shot and injured whileobservinga demonstration near Ramallah.
Earlier this week, Amnesty International demanded that Israel stop unlawful killings in occupied Palestinian territory, stating that Israeli forces appeared to have “ripped up the rulebook.”
“There is mounting evidence that, as tensions have risen dramatically, in some cases Israeli forces appear to have ripped up the rulebook and resorted to extreme and unlawful measures,”Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International said.
“Intentional lethal force should only be used when absolutely necessary to protect life,” he added. “Instead we are increasingly seeing Israeli forces recklessly flouting international standards by shooting to kill in situations where it is completely unjustified.”
In February last year, Amnesty released a report entitled ‘Trigger-happy’, which found that Israeli forces display a “callous disregard” for human life, with near total impunity for the killing of Palestinian civilians in cases examined since 2011.
Megan Hanna is a freelance photographer and journalist based in Palestine.
An Israeli soldier fires at Palestinian protesters during clashes in the West Bank city of Hebron on Oct. 6, 2015. Photo by Mamoun Wazwaz /Xinhua [China news agency]
Press release, Amnesty International
October 27, 2015
Israeli forces have carried out a series of unlawful killings of Palestinians using intentional lethal force without justification, said Amnesty International today, based on the findings of an ongoing research trip to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
The organization has documented in depth at least four incidents in which Palestinians were deliberately shot dead by Israeli forces when they posed no imminent threat to life, in what appear to have been extrajudicial executions.
In some cases, the person shot was left bleeding to death on the ground and was not given prompt medical assistance, in violation of the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment. Since 1 October, Israeli forces have killed more than 30 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Israel either after stabbings were carried out or the Israeli authorities allege stabbing attacks were intended.
There is mounting evidence that, as tensions have risen dramatically, in some cases Israeli forces appear to have ripped up the rulebook and resorted to extreme and unlawful measures. They seem increasingly prone to using lethal force against anyone they perceive as posing a threat, without ensuring that the threat is real.
“A clear pattern has emerged of lethal force being used unlawfully by Israeli forces following a wave of recent stabbing attacks by Palestinians against Israeli civilians and military or police forces in Israel and the occupied West Bank,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.
“There is mounting evidence that, as tensions have risen dramatically, in some cases Israeli forces appear to have ripped up the rulebook and resorted to extreme and unlawful measures. They seem increasingly prone to using lethal force against anyone they perceive as posing a threat, without ensuring that the threat is real.
“Intentional lethal force should only be used when absolutely necessary to protect life. Instead we are increasingly seeing Israeli forces recklessly flouting international standards by shooting to kill in situations where it is completely unjustified. Israeli forces must end this pattern of unlawful killings and bring all those responsible to justice.”
In an especially egregious case, Israeli forces shot dead 19-year-old Sa’ad Muhammad Youssef al-Atrash in the Old City of Hebron as he attempted to retrieve an ID card at an Israeli soldier’s request on 26 October. The Israeli police labelled the incident an “attempted stabbing” but an eyewitness watching the events unfold from her balcony said he had posed no threat when he was shot. One of the soldiers had asked him for ID, and as he reached into his pocket to grab his card another soldier standing behind him shot him on his right side, she told Amnesty International. The eyewitness said he was shot six or seven times and bled profusely as he lay on the ground for about 40 minutes afterwards, while soldiers failed to provide medical treatment. She also reported seeing soldiers bring a knife and place it in the dying man’s hand.
“Then they put him on a stretcher and pushed him towards an ambulance but didn’t put him in. By this time he looked extremely yellow and I thought that he was dead at that point. He remained in front of the ambulance for another 20 minutes before he was put inside it and taken away,” the witness said.
On 25 October, a short distance from where al-Atrash was killed, Israeli border police shot dead Dania Jihad Hussein Ershied, 17. Shortly before she was killed, she had passed through a checkpoint equipped with a metal detector and two revolving gates, between which Israeli forces frequently lock people they deem suspicious. At a second checkpoint in front of Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque she was called for a second inspection by more than five border police officers, who began searching her bag and yelling at her to show her knife.
Warning shots were fired at her feet, prompting her to step back and raise her hands in the air. She was shouting at the police that she did not have a knife and still had her arms raised when police again opened fire, shooting her six or seven times.
A photo of Ershied’s body shows a knife lying near the body, and the Israeli police spokesperson has stated that she attempted to stab a border policeman. However, even if Dania Jihad Hussein Ershied had a knife in her possession, eyewitness accounts indicate she was not posing a threat to Israeli forces when she was shot, and her killing is therefore absolutely unjustified.
Amnesty International has gathered evidence of other recent shootings in which Israeli forces used unwarranted lethal force in what were likely extrajudicial executions.
On 4 October, Fadi Alloun, 19, from Issawiyya in East Jerusalem, was shot and killed by Israeli police near Jerusalem’s Old City, in another apparent extrajudicial execution. Israeli police said that he had a knife in his hand when he was shot, after stabbing a 16-year-old Israeli boy who was lightly injured. But video of the incident shows him being chased by a group of Israeli civilians before police arrived on the scene and shot him from some metres away, without attempting to arrest him.
Hadeel al-Hashlamoun was shot dead on 22 September at a checkpoint in Hebron. Israeli forces said she was attempting to stab a soldier when they repeatedly shot her, but two eyewitnesses contradicted this account. Amnesty International has previously said the evidence indicates her killing was an extrajudicial execution.
“Israeli forces and civilians have faced genuine attacks and threats to their lives over the past weeks. But heavily armed soldiers and police wearing body armour facing a possible knife attack have a duty to use proportionate and graduated force and attempt to arrest suspects before resorting to the use of lethal force,” said Philip Luther.
“Unfortunately, Israel’s investigation systems have long served to perpetuate impunity for unlawful killings of Palestinians by Israeli military and police forces. While we urge the Israeli authorities to conduct independent, impartial investigations into all these incidents, wilful killings of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, over which all states can exercise universal jurisdiction.”