Israel: Collective punishment will not bring the justice that murdered teens deserve

The murder of three abducted Israeli teens deserves justice, something ill-served by the Israeli authorities’ actions overnight and their ongoing practices that amount to collective punishment of Palestinians in the West Bank, which are blatant violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, Amnesty International said.

On 30 June, the bodies of three Israeli teens abducted on 12 June were found north of the city of Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The Israeli authorities have vowed revenge against the Palestinian armed group Hamas, alleging that it was behind the abduction.

“Nothing can justify these abductions and murders, which we again condemn. Those responsible must be brought to justice,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International. 

“But justice will not be served by Israel seeking revenge by imposing collective punishment, or committing other violations of Palestinians’ rights. Rather, the Israeli authorities must conduct a full, thorough and impartial investigation that leads to the prosecution of those suspected of being responsible in fair trials.” 

Upon the Israel security forces’ discovery on 30 June of the bodies of Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Israel’s security cabinet met and vowed revenge against Hamas. 

The apartments of the families of the two men the Israeli authorities have said are suspects in the teens’ abduction – Marwan al-Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisheh, both residents of Hebron – were demolished by the Israeli military overnight, causing significant damage to the larger family buildings in which they were located. The men’s whereabouts is unknown. 

The Israeli authorities have not presented any evidence to back their assertion that Hamas or the two named suspects were responsible for the teens’ abductions and murders. 

Following the security cabinet meeting, Israel launched at least 34 air strikes on locations across Gaza on the morning of 1 July. There have been reports of Palestinian injuries. 

Militant groups in Gaza have also fired at least 18 rockets into southern Israel; so far no injuries have been reported.

In the West Bank, Yousef Abu Zagha, 20, was shot dead by Israeli soldiers during an arrest raid in Jenin refugee camp on the morning of 1 July 2014, after he allegedly hurled a grenade at them. This brings to at least six the number of Palestinians – including at least one child – killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank since the beginning of the military operation to search for the Israeli teens.

“The logic of tit-for-tat retaliation will only increase the likelihood for further human rights violations and abuses and suffering by Palestinians and Israelis; it needs to stop immediately,” said Philip Luther. 

The escalation of Israel’s military response comes amid continued practices which amount to collective punishment against civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the unlawful policy of settling civilians in the occupied West Bank.

These include arbitrary arrests and detention – with at least 364 Palestinians currently under administrative detention, the highest number in years – as well as an increased number of checkpoint closures and arbitrary restrictions on Palestinians’ right to freedom of movement.

Meanwhile, Israeli settlers have attacked Palestinians in the Hebron and Bethlehem areas, with a nine-year-old girl reportedly injured after a settler ran her over with his car. Settlers have set up three new outposts in the occupied West Bank since the Israeli teens’ bodies were found.