In the past week, Al-Haq documented the killing of five Palestinians across the West Bank by Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF), raising the death toll of Palestinians who have been shot and killed in the West Bank since 8 July to 22. Preliminary information from Al-Haq’s field workers indicates that in all five cases Israeli forces demonstrated excessive use of force in their resort to live ammunition. Eleven year-old Khalil Muhammad al-‘Anati was playing in his grandfather’s backyard in al-Fawwar refugee camp (Hebron governorate) when Israeli soldiers shot him with a live bullet in his lower back. Muhammad Nayef al-Ja’abis, 21, was shot 25 times with live fire in Jerusalem after he was discovered in the driving seat of a bulldozer that hit an Israeli bus on Road 1 in Jerusalem – killing an Israeli Rabbi. Nader Muhammad Idris, 41, was shot with a live bullet in the left side of his chest during clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian youths who were throwing stones in the Bab al-Zawya area.
The following accounts gathered by the Al-Haq field research team outline the additional two killings that occurred last week.
Muhammad Ahmad al-Qutri – al-Am’ari refugee camp – Ramallah
On Friday 8 August, Muhammad, 19, and his friend, Mahmoud Qteish, left al-Ama’ri refugee camp and headed towards Muhammad’s workplace at the Joseph Blatter Academy in Jabal al-Tawil area, al-Birah. They were there for about half an hour before they decided to go back to al-Ama’ri refugee camp. Meanwhile, there were approximately 50 Palestinians between the ages of 8 and 15 who had congregated by the entrance gate to the Psagot settlement, which is built on Palestinian land in Jabal al-Tawil. The boys were throwing occasional stones at the Israeli soldiers, who responded by firing tear gas and sound bombs. Since the beginning of the offensive on the Gaza Strip, confrontations between the boys from the refugee camp and the soldiers have been taking place at the entrance of Psagot settlement on an almost daily basis.
On their way back to the camp, Muhammad and Mahmoud walked along the road on which the boys had gathered. They joined the boys and threw stones at the soldiers. However, according to eye witnesses, the confrontations took place at a relatively calm pace and many of the boys soon left the area. Muhammad, however, remained, along with approximately 20 others. It is estimated that seven Israeli soldiers were standing outside of the settlement gate around 70 metres away from the boys Only three of the soldiers, who were situated on the ground and poised ready to fire their weapons were visible to the boys.
At approximately 7:00 P.M., Muhammad threw a few stones at the three soldiers on the ground. The soldiers responded by firing a live bullet towards Muhammad, which hit him in the chest. Six additional live bullets were then fired in the direction of the protestors. Following Muhammad’s injury, the other boys tried to reach him so as to transfer him to a medical facility. However, the Israeli soldiers prevented them from doing so by firing further live ammunition in their direction until they retreated.
In the meantime, four Israeli soldiers carried Muhammad by his arms and legs, in a manner that disregarded his injury and caused his head and back to repeatedly hit the ground. They carried Muhammad in that position for about 120 metres. When they had passed through the gate into the settlement they threw him to the ground. After approximately 20 minutes, a Palestinian ambulance arrived at the location, followed, ten minutes later, by three Israeli ambulances.
By the time Muhammad was transferred into an ambulance he had already died as a result of the injury caused by the gunshot. He was taken to the Ramallah Governmental Hospital at approximately 7:45 P.M where he was officially announced dead at 8:00 P.M. Muhammad’s body underwent an autopsy at Al-Quds University's Institute of Forensic Medicine in Abu Dis where it was concluded that Muhammad was shot with one bullet in the centre of his chest, which hit his aortic artery and settled in his heart. Furthermore, bruises and scratches were seen in his lower back, hand and his sides, which it was concluded were a result of the Israeli soldiers’ carrying his body in a manner that caused him to repeatedly hit the ground.
Zakariyya Musa Aqra’ – Qabalan – Nablus
On 10 August, at approximately 11:15 P.M., Suhayb Ahmad Jabr, 30, and his wife Dunia ‘Atallaf al-Khalili, 23, were in their house in Qabalan, when they received a phone call from their neighbour Muhannad Musa Aqra’, 33, who lives in the same building. Muhannad informed them that Israeli forces were surrounding their three-storey building. The Israeli authorities had wanted Muhannad’s brother, Zakariyya, 24, for ten days due to an accusation that he had opened fire at Israeli soldiers.
Around 15 minutes later, the soldiers threw stones at the house’s southern balcony and the side windows on the third floor. Suhayb went outside to speak to the soldiers who told him, along with the other residents of the building, to leave the house. Twelve soldiers were spotted dressed in black with masks covering their faces, carrying machine guns and accompanied by two police dogs. Five other soldiers were directly below the western balcony holding flashlights and with their guns directed at the apartments.
On their way out of the building, the Israeli soldiers asked the residents to move forward one by one, keeping a five-metre distance between each of them. The soldiers carried out body searches on Muhannad, his father, Musa, and Suhayb. The soldiers tied their hands behind their back, blindfolded them and took them to a house under construction 15 metres away. The women and children were also taken to the same house. When they arrived, three other young men from the village were being held in the house; Belal and Talal Kamal Farah, 24 and 21, and Amjad Nijm, 22. There were also six soldiers inside the house watching them. One of the soldiers interrogated them all separately about Zakariyya and his whereabouts.
Fifteen minutes later, more Israeli forces arrived on the scene, including the south Nablus commander, Gila’d. He entered the room in which the Palestinians were detained and introduced himself in Arabic. He told Muhannad and Musa that they want Zakariyya to turn himself in or else they would take him - either dead or alive. He added that Zakariyya had until 6:00 A.M. to turn himself in, or they would bring him in as a dead body. Musa said that his son, Zakariyya, refuses to turn himself in. Afterwards, heavy fire and explosions were heard.
Approximately half an hour later, the commander spoke to Musa again and told him to ask Zakariyya to turn himself in, or else they would kill him. Following this, another officer spoke to Musa on the phone for 15 minutes telling him to ask his son to turn himself in or else he would be killed. The father responded that he had no authority over his son. The shooting continued in the neighbourhood. Then Gila’d told Musa that Zakariyya was shooting at the soldiers using a 14 mm gun. Musa denied that Zakariyya would shoot at them.
By approximately 2:00 A.M. on 11 August, around 100 Israeli soldiers had arrived in the area and surrounded the building in which Zakariyya was hiding. The soldiers opened fire in the area and shelled a neighbouring house, causing all the residents to sustain shrapnel injuries, including three children. By this point, Zakariyya was hiding in the yard of the house that was shelled. Two hours later, after the Israeli soldiers had prevented an ambulance from reaching them, the injured family was allowed to leave.
Heavy fire and clashes continued until approximately 5:30 A.M. It is estimated that by that time, Zakariyya had already been killed due to injuries he had sustained to his head, legs, chest, pelvis, lower back and arms. When the soldiers reached him, he was lying on the ground in the yard of the shelled house. The soldiers dragged his body to the street and then placed him in one of the rooms in the house in which his father and the other Palestinians were being held.
At approximately 5:30 A.M., following Zakariyya’s killing, two Israeli military bulldozers were brought to the scene. They demolished storage rooms near the three-storey building and the staircase of the first floor of the building. Other parts of the building were also severely damaged and filled with shrapnel.
Al-Haq is gravely concerned with the alarming rise in the number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank in the past few weeks. As the Occupying Power, Israel must conduct its activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) in compliance with its obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law. As such, Israel must respect the right to life of the occupied Palestinian population in the OPT. The use of firearms by the Israeli army can only be justified in self-defence against imminent threat of death, serious injury, or to defend someone else from the imminent risk of death. In cases in which firearms are used, the Israeli army must seek to minimise damage and injury and respect and preserve human life. Al-Haq condemns the excessive use of force and the use of live ammunition against Palestinians civilians in the OPT. As such, Al-Haq urges the Israeli authorities to carry out immediate, transparent and impartial investigations to clarify the circumstances that lead to the above killings with a view to prosecuting the soldiers responsible for any breaches of international law.
In addition, the IOF’s unnecessary damage to property in the neighbourhood and injury to some of its residents while conducting its military campaign amounts to collective punishment of Palestinian civilians, in blatant violation of international humanitarian law.