Israeli medics move a handcuffed Palestinian woman who police believe attacked a man in Jerusalem, Monday, Nov. 3, 2015. Photo by Sebastian Scheiner
By Zann Huizhen Huang, Palestine Monitor
April 12, 2017
On 29 March 2017, Siham Nimer, 49, a Jerusalemite, was shot to death by Israeli border police at the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. She had tried to stab the officers with a pair of scissors from behind a police barrier.
Based on a screenshot from a security camera installed in the area, it is unlikely that Nimer could have posed any mortal danger to the soldiers according to B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights NGO. With solid protective gear as well as weapons, the Israeli Border Police officers could have subdued her easily instead of killing her.
Last September Nimer’s son, 26-year-old Mustafa Nimer, was shot and killed by Israeli police officers in Shu’fat Refugee Camp. Israeli police said that Nimer was a passenger in a car whose driver was driving recklessly, under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Suspecting that it could potentially be another car-ramming attack, the police opened fire on the car, as Nimer was trying to bring food and baby clothes home.
Nimer’s killing is just the tip of a huge iceberg. Just this week, 17-year-old Jassem Muhammad Nakhla from Jalazone refugee camp near Ramallah succumbed to wounds he sustained after the was shot in the head by Israeli forces in contested circumstances. According to eyewitnesses, Nakhla was shot while driving with three others past an Israeli military tower. The army maintains the youth had been outside the car throwing molotov cocktails. The car was riddled in bullet holes.
A wave of violence that began in October 2015 resulted in the death of more than 259 Palestinians, 41 Israelis, two Americans, one Jordanian, an Eritrean and a Sudanese, according to an Agence France Presse (AFP) count. Most of the Palestinians were killed following alleged, attempted or actual attacks, while others were shot dead during protests or Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip. Most of the Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks.
According to a list compiled by Al Haq, a Palestinian human rights NGO based in Ramallah, many of the Palestinian victims are under the age of 20, while a few are below 12 years of age.
Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights groups have argued that some of these Palestinians could have been restrained, arrested and subjected to a fair trial later. Instead, they were fatally shot by the Israeli police or army.
Shoot to kill policy
Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) conducted an analysis of statements made by senior Israeli politicians since October 2015, arguing that some Israeli officials have been actively encouraging a “shoot-to-kill” policy.
“It’s not just about potentially rogue soldiers, but also about senior Israeli officials who publicly tell security forces to unlawfully shoot to kill,” said Sari Bashi, advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.
“Whatever the results of trials of individual soldiers, the Israeli government should issue clear directives to use force only in accordance with international law,” she added, referring to the case of Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who killed 21-year-old Abd al-Fatah al-Sharif in Hebron in March 2016. The Palestinian had already been shot and wounded and was lying motionless on the ground when Azaria shot him in the head.
HWR highlighted that these calls by Israeli officials breach the rules of engagement issued to the Israeli army and its police forces. They also violate international human rights law, which limits the intentional use of firearms to circumstances in which it is strictly necessary to protect a life.
For instance, Jerusalem Police District Commander Moshe Edri told reporters at Walla News: “The police are doing their job … everyone who stabs Jews or harms innocent people – should be killed.”
Members of the Israeli forces who have killed Palestinians unlawfully also benefit from a climate of impunity, according to Amnesty International.
“The Israeli army, Ministry of Justice and police also did not investigate, failed to investigate adequately, or closed investigations into cases of alleged unlawful killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces in both Israel and the OPT,” wrote the human rights group in a statement. Last September, Amnesty sent the Israeli government a memorandum in which it documented at least 20 cases of apparently unlawful killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces, including 15 cases of Palestinians who were shot dead despite posing “no imminent threat to life in what appear to be extrajudicial executions.”
“The only way to prevent further unlawful killings is to end the impunity that exists for those who have carried them out in the past,” said Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
April 04, 2017
On the afternoon of 29 March 2017, Siham Nimer, 49, approached a metal police barrier near Damascus Gate, the Old City, East Jerusalem. She brandished a pair of scissors at Border Police officers who were standing on the other side of the barrier, and they shot and killed her.
A screenshot from a security camera installed in the area, released by the police, shows Siham holding up the scissors while standing behind the police barrier. It is quite doubtful whether Siham could have, in the circumstances, crossed the barrier, proceeded toward the officers and put them in danger. Moreover, given the officers’ protective gear and the means they had at their disposal, it stands to reason that they would have been able to subdue her and take her into custody without resorting to gunfire, let alone lethal gunfire. Nevertheless, they shot and killed her.
Jerusalem District Police Commander Major General Yoram Halevy said of the officers’ actions that their “determined, uncompromising response nipped the attempted attack in the bud and prevented further harm to innocents”. There is an irreconcilable gap between the facts of the case and the district commander’s statement which, coupled with similar sentiments expressed by other senior ranking officials and a mood of general hostility ever since October 2015, encourages security personnel to shoot to kill even in cases such as this one, where lethal measures are unjustified.
Siham Nimer was the mother of Mustafa Nimer, 26, who was shot and killed by police in Shu’fat Refugee Camp on 5 September 2016. The police said the driver of the car he was a passenger in at the time had been driving erratically under the influence of drugs and alcohol. In both cases, the security forces’ trigger happy policies with regard to Palestinians have resulted in needless death.
B’Tselem has already repeatedly stated that shooting to kill is permissible only when the target puts others’ lives at risk. This is yet another case in which security forces acted completely at variance with this, and received full support for their actions. The continued policy of using lethal fire against Palestinians who pose no mortal danger attests to a chilling gap between the recognized and accepted principle that prohibits this use of gunfire, and a reality in which shoot-to-kill incidents are a frequent occurrence and are encouraged by public sentiment, even when suspects no longer poses any danger, if they ever even posed a serious threat in the first place.