Trigger-happy: Israel's use of excessive force in the West Bank

Report
February 27, 2014

Trigger-happy: Israel's use of excessive force in the West Bank

This report focuses on the use of excessive force by Israeli forces in the West Bank since the beginning of 2011. In doing so, it details cases of killings and injuries by Israeli forces of Palestinian civilians in the context of protests in the West Bank against Israel's continuing military occupation of the Palestinian territories, illegal Israeli settlements and the fence/wall, as well as Israel's treatment of Palestinian prisoners and detainees and violence against Palestinians by Israeli settlers. Israel's policy of settling its civilians on occupied land violates the Fourth Geneva Convention and is considered a war crime according to the statute of the International Criminal Court. The International Court of Justice has concluded that construction of the fence/wall inside the occupied West Bank, including in and around East Jerusalem, violates international human rights and humanitarian law.

The report also includes one case from 2009 in which a Palestinian peaceful protester was killed following the use of excessive force by Israeli forces and for which no one has been held accountable. It does not include cases of killings or injuries in other contexts such as search-and-arrest operations. The report also does not cover Israel's use of excessive force against Palestinians protesters in the Gaza Strip, such as in the "buffer zone" bordering Israel.

Amnesty International has reported elsewhere on events in the West Bank and beyond involving the use of excessive force, including lethal, force by Israeli forces earlier in 2011 – such as the shooting of protesters who gathered on 15 May 2011 to mark the Nakba (catastrophe) anniversary of Israel's dispossession of Palestinians in 1948 and the killing and wounding of demonstrators who sought to cross from Syria into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on 5 June 2011. Amnesty International does not address these matters in this particular report.

During the last two years, Amnesty International has documented elsewhere the use of excessive force by the PA in areas under its control in the West Bank, by the de facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip and by Israeli forces inside Israel.

Amnesty International conducted much of the research on which this report is based during visits to the West Bank in July 2012, March 2013, June 2013, September 2013 and December 2013. In investigating the alleged abuses by Israeli forces Amnesty International researchers observed demonstrations, interviewed wounded protesters and bystanders, victims' relatives, eyewitnesses, medical workers, local human rights activists, lawyers, journalists and others and inspected locations in which protesters had been killed or injured. They also obtained corroborative documentation including medical reports and video film footage, and received valuable assistance from Israeli and Palestinian organizations, including Al-Haq, B'Tselem, Yesh Din, Addameer, Breaking the Silence, the Human Rights Clinic at Al-Quds University and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel), and from local human rights activists and defenders in Nabi Saleh, Hebron and other areas of the West Bank, as well as from Human Rights Watch and UN agencies.

Amnesty International requested meetings with the Central Command of the IDF and with the office of the MAG in order to seek information on specific cases and to discuss its concerns but neither agreed to meet Amnesty International. Amnesty International has also sent two letters to the Military Advocate General copying other authorities to request information about investigations into the cases included in this report, but no response was received at the time of writing in February 2014. It did, however, receive a reply from the Israeli army which was sent to Amnesty International Israel in response to a letter concerning the use of excessive force in the village of Nabi Saleh. The full names of some individuals interviewed or featured in this report have been withheld at their request out of concern for their or their families' safety.

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