Israel/OPT: Stop use of excessive force against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank

Israel’s military response to protests in the West Bank is failing to respect the human rights of Palestinians, Amnesty International said today as the number of Palestinian civilians killed by Israeli fire in the area since the beginning of 2013 reached eight.

Ongoing Palestinian protests against the Israeli occupation have further escalated this week following renewed anger over detention conditions of Palestinian political detainees and prisoners, including the death in custody of Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, a Palestinian prisoner with cancer held by Israel since 2002.

The protests look set to continue following the deaths of two Palestinian teenagers who were killed by Israeli forces at a military post near the settlement of Enav in the northern West Bank on Wednesday.

“For years we and other human rights organizations have documented how the Israeli army has used excessive force against protesters in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, often resulting in unlawful killings and injuries,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty |nternational’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“Israel must take urgent steps to ensure its forces in the West Bank limit the use of live fire to situations when their own lives or others are genuinely in danger in order to avoid further unlawful deaths and injuries.”

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs documented more than 1,000 injuries of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces in the West Bank during January and February 2013.

Amnesty International has previously raised concerns that Israel’s military investigations fail to meet international standards and result in near-total impunity for those responsible for unlawful killings. Any killing or serious injury of a civilian by Israeli armed forces should be investigated promptly, independently, and impartially so that those responsible can be held to account and victims and their relatives can claim redress.

“While we recognize that the Israeli army, as the occupying power, has a responsibility to maintain law and order, it is also obliged to protect Palestinian civilians and must adhere to international policing standards,” said Harrison.

“Israeli forces must respect Palestinians’ right to protest peacefully, including against Israeli policies and practices such as the building of settlements on occupied land, which is a serious violation of international law and amounts to a war crime when pursued as a consistent policy, as in Israel’s case.”