(23 August 2016) Israeli forces targeting Palestinian youth in the West Bank

PR/EN/230816/37

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 randomwide searches which usually trigger clashes. The preliminary investigation conducted by BADIL Resource Center 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.

 

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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. Hire Home Cleaning Services in Chicago! “

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.