PM should raise concern over ‘trigger-happy’ Israeli soldiers
With the Prime Minister David Cameron on a two-day visit in Israel - his first as prime minister - Amnesty International UK’s Head of Policy and Government Affairs Allan Hogarth said:
“David Cameron should use the visit to raise concern over the disturbing number of killings of Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories by trigger-happy Israeli soldiers.
“Last year alone, 22 Palestinian civilians were killed by the Israeli forces in the West Bank, with several of the victims shot in the back.
“Israel has legitimate security concerns, but the prime minister should point out - politely but firmly - that it must abide by its obligations under international law, including by holding forces accountable for unlawfully killing Palestinian civilians.”
Last month Amnesty published an 85-page report - Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank - documenting the killings of 22 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank last year, of which at least 14 were in the context of protests - including protests against the longstanding occupation itself as well as against the fence/wall, house demolitions and forced evictions, Israeli military checkpoints, and roads reserved for use by Israeli settlers from which Palestinians are excluded.
Most of those killed have been young adults under the age of 25, at least four of whom were children. According to UN figures, more West Bank Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces last year (27) than the total number killed in 2011 (ten) and 2012 (eight) combined, with peaceful protesters, civilian bystanders, human rights activists and journalists among those killed or injured.
Since the report’s publication on 27 February, three more Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank, and a Palestinian-Jordanian judge was killed by Israeli forces at the Allenby border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank. During the same two-week period, Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian woman in the Gaza strip near the border fence with Israel - the latest in a string of killings of civilians in Gaza near the border.
In all the cases examined by Amnesty in its recent report, Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers did not appear to be posing a direct and immediate threat to life. Several victims were shot in the back, suggesting that they were targeted as they tried to flee and posed no genuine threat to the lives of members of Israeli forces or others. In several cases, well-armoured Israeli forces have resorted to lethal means to crack down on stone-throwing protesters causing needless loss of life. There is evidence that some individuals were victims of wilful killings, which would amount to war crimes.
Between January 2011 and December 2013, at least 261 Palestinians, including 67 children, have been seriously injured by live ammunition fired by Israeli forces in the West Bank. Since January 2011, an astonishing number of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank - more than 8,000, including 1,500 children - were shot and seriously wounded by other means, including rubber-coated metal bullets and the reckless use of tear gas. In some cases, victims have also died as a result of their use.
Visit to West Bank
Tomorrow, David Cameron will travel to the West Bank city of Bethlehem to meet the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and Amnesty is calling on Mr Cameron to raise the issue of the Palestinian Authority security forces’ repeated use of unwarranted violence to disperse peaceful protesters in the territory, as well as the PA’s poor record over the abuse of detainees. There have also been cases of fatal shootings during arrest operations by PA security forces.
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