January 6, 2020 – In 2019, Israeli security forces killed 133 Palestinians, including 28 minors. Of the casualties, 104 were killed in the Gaza Strip, 26 in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and three within Israel. Most of these deaths were a direct outcome of Israel’s reckless open-fire policy, authorized by the government and military and backed by the legal system. The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court’s announcement, that there is a basis for investigating possible war crimes by Israel relating to some aspects of this policy, is unavoidable in light of Israel’s refusal to change it.
In the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces killed 104 Palestinians, including seven women and 22 minors.
Over half of the persons killed – 56 – were not taking part in hostilities; 46 were; while regarding two others, B’Tselem does not know whether or not they were taking part in hostilities . Another two Palestinians from Gaza, one of them a 15-year-old who took no part in the hostilities, were killed within Israeli territory shortly after crossing the fence with Gaza.
Israel carried out numerous attacks in the Gaza Strip throughout 2019. In two rounds of fighting in May and November, Israel killed 60 people, almost half of whom – 27, including six women and 10 minors – were not taking part in hostilities. One strike, on 14 November, killed nine members of the a-Sawarkah family.
In 2019, demonstrators continued to stage “March of Return” protests near the Gaza-Israel fence almost every week. Israel killed 31 Palestinians in the protests throughout 2019, including 11 minors, six of them under the age of 16. Israeli security forces have responded to the protests, which began in 2018, by implementing an immoral and unlawful policy of opening live fire against unarmed demonstrators on the other side of the fence. In 2019, 26 demonstrators were killed in this way, including one woman and eight minors. Another four demonstrators were killed by teargas canisters striking them in the head, and one was killed after being struck in the head by a stun grenade fired from a launcher.
In the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Israeli forces killed 26 Palestinians, including five minors.
Three Palestinians were killed during, or shortly after, incidents that involved stone-throwing. One of them, 17-year-old volunteer paramedic Sajed Muzhar, was shot and killed as he approached to treat an injured person in a-Duheisheh Refugee Camp. Another person, 21-year-old Muhammad ‘Abeid from al-‘Esawiyah, was shot and killed by police officers after shooting firecrackers at them. All four were lethally shot despite posing no danger to the lives of security forces or other individuals.
Six of the casualties in the West Bank were killed during, or shortly after, incidents that involved throwing Molotov cocktails or IEDs (or allegedly involved such activity). B’Tselem investigated three of the cases and found that none of the persons killed had posed any danger at the time of their death. One of them, 22-year-old ‘Omar al-Badawi from al-‘Arrub Refugee Camp, did not even take part in the clashes in the camp. He was shot by a soldier while trying to put out a fire started by a Molotov cocktail that landed near his house, and died soon after.
In another case, 15-year-old ‘Abdallah Gheith was lethally shot by a Border Police officer as he tried to enter Israel in order to pray in Jerusalem. Two months earlier, 22-year-old Ahmad Manasrah was shot and killed while he was attempting to help a family whose car stopped in the middle of the road, after soldiers unjustifiably opened fire at the father and killed him.
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Another 12 Palestinians were killed when they assaulted, tried to assault, or were accused of assaulting Israeli security forces or civilians – with knives or by driving vehicles. At least five were found to have posed no immediate danger to security forces or other individuals, and they could have been stopped with other, less injurious means. The circumstances in which two of them, Amir Daraj and Yusuf ‘Anqawi, were killed raise grave suspicion that the lethal fire occurred long after they committed the alleged assault.
Israeli civilians killed two Palestinians who threw stones at Israeli civilians or took part in clashes. One of them, 38-year-old father of two Hamdi Na’asan, was shot in the back by settlers who attacked his village. Israeli security forces who were nearby did not defend the residents, leaving them to fend off the assailants themselves.
Over the course of 2019, Palestinians killed seven Israeli civilians, three of them in the West Bank, including 17-year-old Rina Shnerb. The other four were killed by rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Palestinians also killed two soldiers in the West Bank.
Three Palestinians, including a woman and her infant niece, were killed in the Gaza Strip by rockets that Palestinians fired towards Israel but which landed inside Gaza.
B’Tselem’s investigation found that almost all the incidents in which Israeli forces killed Palestinians in 2019 were the result of the reckless open-fire policy Israel implements in the Occupied Territories. In the Gaza Strip, this includes bombing densely-populated areas and giving patently unlawful orders that permit live fire at unarmed demonstrators by the fence with Israel. These orders, sanctioned by the Supreme Court, are still in place, although the military itself admitted in July 2019 that as a result it kills people for no reason. In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the policy includes shooting to kill in instances defined as “incidents of assault”, even when these means are unjustified, and opening live fire in circumstances that do not entail mortal danger to security forces or other individuals.
Israel continues to implement this longstanding open-fire policy, despite its horrific, predictable outcomes, and it is fully backed by the government, the military and both the civilian and military legal systems. Therefore, arguing that the military abides by the law and investigates every suspected breach is adding insult to injury. No-one investigates the policy itself or the officials who formulate it, and the military law enforcement system focuses on isolated incidents defined as “exceptional”. Moreover, the rare investigations that are carried out are then whitewashed.
B’Tselem, The Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories: www.btselem.org