Inhabitants of Aida, we are the occupation’s army. If you continue to throw stones, we will continue to shoot gas, until you die; the children, the adults, the elderly, the dying. Everything. We do not want to leave any of you alive. I have one of you [referring to a 25 year-old male from the camp who was arrested and transferred to the military base – where the detainee alleges to have been badly beaten by both Israel soldiers and Israeli civilians - shortly before the announcement was made. He was later released and treated in a Bethlehem hospital]. You saw him with your own eyes; we took him up with us [to the military base]. We will even kill him in front of you if you continue throwing stones. We will shoot gas until you die: on your homes, on your families, brothers, sons, everything. Listen to me, an advice; I tell you: go home, it is better for you.
Israeli military vehicles invaded Aida refugee camp and used loud speakers to leave the Palestinians a message.. Watch, listen and share.. (English subtitles)#PalestinePosted by Mohammed Matter on Thursday, October 29, 2015
That such a statement was made is supported by clear video/audio footage, and by multiple eyewitness accounts.
Such an announcement is remarkable in its stated contempt for human life, as well as raising a multitude of grave concerns as to the adherence of Israeli forces to central tenets of international law. For instance, the announcement represents an unequivocal threat to kill Palestinian civilians, acts which would represent extrajudicial executions and, given the protected status of the occupied Palestinian population, a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The offence of wilful killing is also prosecutable as a war crime under the Statute of the International Criminal Court.
The prohibition on threatening to carry out a prohibited act is recognized in international law, whilst such threats are made all the more serious by the recent spate of unlawful killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces; killings which have prompted Amnesty International to accuse Israel of “ripp[ing] up the rulebook and resort[ing] to extreme and unlawful measures” in its treatment of Palestinians inside the occupied Palestinian territory. Indeed, such a killing took place on October 5th, just meters from the location from which the jeep made its announcement, when Abd al-Raham Shadi (13) was shot dead by an Israeli sniper. The Israeli military later claimed Abd al-Raham’s killing to have been an ‘accident’.
The announcement made from the jeep also includes – in its reference to lethal gassing of all of the Camp’s inhabitants - a clear and grave threat to collectively punish the population of Aida Camp by way of lethal force. Collective punishments are prohibited under customary international law, as are acts or threats of violence which spread terror among a civilian population. Again, such threats are leant further gravity by events on the ground. According to accounts from camp residents and available video footage, a large volume of tear gas had already been fired into Aida during the course of the afternoon of October 29th, and the lethal potential of this weapon is well-known to inhabitants of the camp. In April last year, an Aida Camp resident, Noha Katamish (45), died following prolonged exposure to tear gas. It is also relevant to note that this statement, in its apparent acknowledgement that tear gas constitutes a lethal weapon, clearly contradicts the insistence of the Israeli military that tear gas is suitable for situations of ‘crowd-control’.
In addition, in threatening to execute a prisoner, the announcement sets out a willingness to perpetrate a serious breach of the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, which demands that Israel ensure that Palestinian prisoners are, at all times, humanely treated and protected from physical harm and, particularly, acts which would cause their death. Indeed, given the allegations that the detainee was beaten whilst in the custody of Israeli forces - requiring hospital treatment following his eventual release – there exists a compelling prima facie case that a breach of this Convention did take place.
Furthermore, given his detention inside the military base – near to the camp entrance thus in close proximity to the jeep at the time of the announcement – the detainee heard clearly the threat to execute him. In an interview with BADIL’s researchers, the detainee stated that, on hearing the announcement, he believed that he would shortly be killed. Such grievous psychological abuse would, accordingly, appear to constitute a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the torture or inhumane treatment of a protected person.
Also of relevance to the case in point is the prohibition of the taking of hostages, enshrined within Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, and also considered a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. This offence is defined in the Convention against the Taking of Hostages as the “seizure or detention of a person, combined with threatening to kill, to injure or to continue to detain the hostage, in order to compel a third party to do or to abstain from doing any act as an explicit or implicit condition for the release of the hostage.” In issuing a statement which linked the survival of the detainee with the ceasing of nearby protests, it would appear that Israeli forces are, again, in clear and grave breach of the Geneva Conventions.
The issuing of such a statement is a barbaric affront to all objective moral and legal standards; a statement intended and serving to terrorize an occupied civilian population. Such threats and the crimes to which these threats allude are the natural result of a growing culture of impunity which exists within the Israeli military. To this end, recent Israeli actions towards Palestinian civilians cannot be considered as isolated incidents, but rather as the violent manifestations a policy of lawlessness in which Israeli forces operate in repeat and direct contravention of international law, absent effective accountability. It should be noted that such a policy could only operate with - at the very minimum - the tacit acceptance of the highest levels of Israeli government.
The BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights demands that a comprehensive and independent investigation be launched into this incident – referring both to the content of the issued statement and the treatment of the detainee - as a matter of great urgency; to identify those responsible and to hold them accountable to the full extent of international law. Moreover, BADIL demands that all third party state signatories to the Geneva Convention act - without delay - in full accordance with their obligation to ensure respect for the Conventions.