IDF military police begin investigation of last weekend's shootings in Nablus area

The Jerusalem Post’s well-connected Defense Correspondent Yaakov Katz has reported today (Thursday) that “on Wednesday, the Military Police began investigating the shooting of two Palestinians on Saturday near Nablus who were killed, likely by IDF troops, during a protest. The soldiers were supposed to only use rubber bullets”. This news is posted here.

This is a rapid and decisive move — and may be part of the reason that the situation has remained calm on the ground in the West Bank, despite deep Palestinian anger, grief, and outrage.

As early as Sunday night, Haaretz reported here that “IDF doctors met with Nablus hospital doctors .. to examine X-rays of one of the men killed in Iraq Burin, which the Palestinians said show that a live bullet had penetrated his head”.  IDF officials also, of course, had available to them the photoevidence (shown below) compiled by BTselem.  In addition, Katz added in his report today, “IDF officers met with PA security officials and reviewed the CT scan of Qadus’s head to see if they could determine the type of bullet that was used”.  The Haaretz report on Sunday noted that “IDF sources said however it was not certain the bullet was a 5.56 mm., the kind used by the IDF, or a 7.62 mm., used by Palestinian security forces”.

One of the two Palestinian teenagers shot Saturday, Ussayed Qaddous (age 19), died on Sunday following hours of medical intervention, after being shot in the village of Iraq Burin, by what clearly seems to be a live bullet to the brain:

BTselem photo of xray of bullet in skull of youth shot in Iraq Burin on 20 March - died 21 March in Nablus hospital

photo (of xray) taken by BTselem fieldworker Salma a-Deb’i

Our earlier posts on this shooting are posted here and here.

The other Palestinian teenager who was shot, Mohammed Qaddous (age 16) died almost immediately from a single expert shot to the heart, and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the Rafidiya hospital in Nablus.

photos of the mortal wound, below, were also taken by BTselem fieldworker Salma a-Deb’i on Saturday in Nablus:

photo by BTselem fieldworker

photo taken by BTselem fieldworker Salma aDebi

According to Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak, these postmortem photographs show that live ammunition was used: “No rubber bullet in the world would move through a 16-year-old’s torso like that”, Pollack told Ma’an News Agency.

BTselem’s Sarit Michaeli said later that her organization is calling for a military criminal investigation that will look not just into ‘who shot them and why’, but also into the ‘suspected reporting of false facts by the soldiers who participated in the events’ … On Saturday, the Israeli military said live fire had not been used. Spokeswoman Avital Liebowich told the BBC on Monday that had been the conclusion of an initial investigation, and maintained that the army ‘did not give any orders to use live fire’. She said a ‘debriefing’ was taking place at brigade level regarding the incident”. This was reported by the BBC here.

In today’s JPost, Katz reported that “The IDF stressed that soldiers were under strict orders to use rubber bullets to disperse the demonstration on Saturday”.

Btselem also said it wants an investigation into a separate shooting Sunday, in Awarta village also near Nablus, in which two Palestinians who had been detained and were being held by Israeli soldiers, were shot dead.

The JPost article published today reports that “The IDF Central Command has modified its rules of engagement in the West Bank, setting down more stringent guidelines regarding when soldiers are allowed to open fire at Palestinians, The Jerusalem Post has learned. According to the new guidelines, soldiers are not allowed to open fire, even in the air, toward Palestinians who are stoning them. In addition, soldiers driving in an armored jeep are not allowed to shoot at a Palestinian who is about to throw a Molotov cocktail at them … Under the new rules of engagement, they are only allowed to open fire if the Palestinian is throwing a Molotov cocktail at a civilian car. To shoot in the air, soldiers need to first receive permission from high-ranking commanders, something not needed in the past … In the past, soldiers serving in Judea and Samaria were allowed to shoot at Palestinians throwing Molotov cocktails. They were also allowed to shoot in the air to disperse Palestinians throwing rocks”.

According to the JPost, the new regulations actually went into effect “several months ago following the appointment of Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrachi as commander of the Central Command” — but, the JPost said, the IDF’s “tactical level” was dismayed.

Yaakov Katz also reports that “The decision to change the rules of engagement was made in line with IDF policy to avoid violence in the West Bank as part of Israeli efforts to bolster the PA. ‘The fear is that violence, shooting and casualties will stymie Israeli and Palestinian efforts to improve the situation on the ground in the West Bank’, one defense official said on Wednesday”.  This Yaakov Katz report in the JPost can be read in full here.

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