Violence in the West Bank: Amnesty International denounces excessive use of force by Israeli forces
Between October 7 and December 31, 2023, a total of 299 Palestinians died violently in the West Bank, a 50% increase in fatalities compared to the first nine months of the year. As of January 29, 2024, 61 people, including 13 minors, had already lost their lives, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
In this context, Amnesty International investigated “four representative cases” in which Israeli forces not only used lethal force unnecessarily, resulting in the deaths of twenty Palestinians, including seven minors, but also prevented medical teams from providing assistance in some instances.
“These unlawful killings constitute a blatant violation of international human rights law and are being committed with impunity,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Director of Research at Amnesty International.
One of these deaths is that of 15-year-old Taha Mahamid, who was shot dead by Israeli forces in front of his house when he went out to check if they had already left, following a 30-hour military raid in the Nour Shams refugee camp in the West Bank city of Tulkarem on October 19.
During the operation, 12 other people, including 6 minors, were killed, and fifteen were detained. According to Israel, a border police officer also lost his life and nine were injured after an explosive device was thrown.
According to witnesses and videos examined by Amnesty, “Taha was unarmed and posed no threat to the soldiers” when he was shot three times in front of his house.
“The first bullet hit him in the leg. The second one hit him in the stomach. The third one hit him in the eye. There were no confrontations, no conflicts,” his sister Fatima said.
A witness told Amnesty International that when Ibrahim Mahamid, Taha’s father, tried to get his injured son to safety, Israeli forces shot him in the back, which was verified in a video. Mahamid suffered serious internal injuries and was admitted to intensive care.
“Neither Taha nor Ibrahim Mahamid posed a threat to the security forces or anyone else when they were shot. This unnecessary use of lethal force should be investigated as possible war crimes behind intentional killings,” the NGO denounced.
According to Amnesty’s investigation, approximately 12 hours after Taha’s murder, the Israeli army raided the house and kept his relatives locked up for 10 hours, in addition to drilling holes in the walls of two rooms to position snipers.
A witness told Amnesty that the soldiers searched the house, assaulted a family member, and one of them even urinated on the door.
On October 13, also in Tulkarem, a crowd of about 80 unarmed Palestinians were demonstrating in solidarity against the war in Gaza when Israeli forces, located in a military watchtower, opened fire.
At least four people were injured, according to two journalists who also received gunshot wounds despite being identified. An Israeli soldier shot another protester in the head, who later died.
In another incident on November 27 in Beitunia, near Ramallah, Israeli forces “used excessive force” against a crowd of people who were about to welcome released prisoners from the Ofer prison as part of the November agreement between Israel and Hamas.
The army used live ammunition and rubber-coated bullets against the crowd, as well as drones to launch tear gas canisters and military bulldozers, resulting in the death of a resident and preventing an ambulance from reaching the scene.
“The obstruction of medical assistance by Israeli forces during their operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is a common practice,” Amnesty denounces as a violation of international humanitarian law.
Israel has occupied the West Bank, home to about three million Palestinians, since the Six-Day War in 1967. Since the war between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist organization Hamas began in the Gaza Strip on October 7, violence in the West Bank has also increased significantly.
According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), more than 360 people have died in Israeli army operations and settler attacks in the Palestinian territory since then.
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