Reflections on the Gaza war [Operation Pillar of Clouds]: B'Tselem

B’Tselem [summary executions are categorically prohibited]: “International law categorically prohibits the extrajudicial killing of civilians – regardless of the allegations against them”.  This is written in a statement concerning the public killing of 7  men during the IDF’s Operation Pillar of Clouds who were accused of being “collaborators” with Israel.  Some senior Hamas officials, including deputy politburo chief, Mousa Abu Marzook, condemned these executions. [See here.] It is not clear whose idea these executions were. This B’Tselem statement is posted here.

B’Tselem [media sites are not legitimate military targets]: “international humanitarian law is very clear on the subject: Neither reporters nor any other civilians may be intentionally targeted, and every feasible precaution must be taken to protect them from the impact of hostilities. Additionally, the media – including those belonging directly to the parties to the conflict – are not legitimate military targets, even if they are used to disseminate propaganda. Where there exists any doubt as to whether or not a target is military or civilian – that target is to be presumed to be civilian … In a statement issued by the IDF Spokesman immediately following the first attack, on the a-Shuruk Building, the Israeli military stated that the attack had been directed at ‘antennas used by Hamas for military operations against the State of Israel in the northern Gaza Strip’. In a later statement, the IDF Spokesman clarified that both attacks were directed against the communications infrastructure of Hamas, which it claims Hamas uses to communicate operational instructions and disseminate propaganda …

Continue reading Reflections on the Gaza war [Operation Pillar of Clouds]: B'Tselem

Meager results from Israeli military investigations of its own conduct in Gaza 3 years ago

The Israeli human rights information organization B’Tselem has reported that it received an update from the Israeli Military’s Attorney-General on the status of complaints [including some from B’Tselem] made into specific aspects of the Israeli military conduct of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza — 3 years ago [27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009].

But, B’Tselem noted, the results of the Israeli military’s investigations into its own actions in that unprecedented operation in Gaza were “meager”.

Continue reading Meager results from Israeli military investigations of its own conduct in Gaza 3 years ago

15 months later, IDF to open investigation into death of West Bank demonstrator

Haaretz is reporting today that the IDF’s Military Advocate General (MAG) Avichai Mandelblit has just ordered the army’s criminal investigations unit to investigate the death of Basem Abu Rahmeh (Bassem Abu Rahma), one of the leaders of a protest movement against Israel’s Wall in Bil’in village west of Ramallah.

Basem Abu Rahmeh was killed in April 2009, minutes after being hit in the chest by a high-velocity tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops.

The Israeli military had previously decided not to investigate his death.

Though he was standing on a hill, and was clearly not one of the few protesters who is down by the fence, challenging the Israeli Border Police and/or IDF soldiers, Basem was shot in the chest by a new type of hardened, extended range, high-velocity (“rocket”) tear-gas canister, which goes straight to the target instead of arching up into the air first. It is is said to move as fast as live ammunition. He died minutes later.

Basem Abu Rahme in Bilin on 17 April 2009

According to one report, here, “Seconds before the shooting, Basem had been pleading with the soldiers to hold their fire, shouting ‘we are in a nonviolent protest, there are kids and internationals’.”  The same source noted that “The teargas projectile in question is the same kind that critically injured American national Tristan Anderson at a demonstration in Ni’lin on the 13th of March, after he was hit in the head from approx. 60 meters”.

According to Haaretz, “The Military Advocate General had refused to open a criminal investigation into the death of Bassem Abu-Rahma, but on Monday changed its mind after expert testimony showed that the tear gas canister was aimed directly at Abu-Rahma and was fired in violation of military orders”…

Continue reading 15 months later, IDF to open investigation into death of West Bank demonstrator

Is this a rubber bullet?

This is a photo, taken by a field worker for BTselem, of the xray made on Saturday in a Nablus hospital of the bullet lodged in the brain of a Palestinian teenager shot in his village of Iraq Burin, in the West Bank south of Nablus, on Saturday 20 March.  He died just before dawn this morning (Sunday).

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 aDeb’i

Our earlier post on this shooting is here.

BTselem has indicated that it will ask the Army to conduct a criminal investigation. On Saturday, an Israeli military spokesperson said that the commander of the Shomron regional brigade, Itzik Yar, will carry out an internal investigation.

An email sent Sunday morning by the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee says that “Ussayed Jamal Abd el-Nasser Qaddous [in the xray, Osaid Abd Kaddous, 19] passed away at 4:30 am this morning despite doctors’ efforts to save his life.  According to eye witnesses Qaddous was shot with live ammunition as soldiers invaded his village after residents demonstrated to protest settler harassment and restrictions of access to their lands.  Mohammed Qaddous, 16, was killed in the same incident yesterday, after soldiers shot him in the chest.  Despite the Israeli military’s claims that live ammunition was not used during the incident yesterday, the version given by numerous civilian eye witnesses of unjust use of live ammunition is corroborated by medical findings.   An xray of Ussayed’s skull taken at the Rafidya hospital in Nublus shows what is clearly a live bullet lodged in his skull. In addition, Mohammed Qaddous’s body had an entry wound in the chest and an exit wound in the back.  Such an injury could not have possibly been cause by anything but live ammunition.  Less-lethal ammunition, rubber-coated bullets included, can, under no circumstances, cause such injuries, even if shot from point blank”.

Ussayed (19) and Mohammed (16) were cousins. Ussayed, a student at an-Najah University in Nablus, was shot first, and Mohammed was trying to carry him to safety when he, too was hit. Mohammed was pronounced dead on Saturday afternoon upon arrival at Rafidiyah hospital in Nablus.

The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee reported, in their email, that “demonstrators set out yesterday towards the village’s lands after midday prayer, and were immediately confronted by soldiers who shot bursts of live ammunition in the air. The Army then continued to shoot tear-gas and rubber bullets towards the villagers in an attempt to prevent them from reaching their lands. Following the unprovoked attack on the villagers, who were accompanied by 15 international activists, intermittent clashes ensued.  Roughly two hours later, the Army retreated towards the settlement and demonstrators went back to the village. Shortly after, armored military jeeps invaded the village, arrested three people and raided houses. A few minutes later, live shots were fired at a small group of young men, some of which were throwing stones. The shots resulted in one fatality and one critical injury to the head”.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) said Sunday that its investigation revealed that Ussayed and Mohammed were not even among the group throwing stones — instead, they were returning to their village in a minivan from Nablus and arrived in the middle of the Israeli military incursion, without prior warning about what was happening. Soldiers were out of their vehicles, PCHR reports, but not far away. When the minivan driver saw burning tires in the street, which was blocked ahead, he stopped: “Mohammed Ibrahim Abdul Qader Qadous, 16, and Usaid [Ussayed] Abdul Naser Qadous, 20, stepped down from the minibus. As the driver turned around to travel back to Nablus, Israeli soldiers opened fire at Mohammed, who was wounded by a bullet to the heart, and Usaid [Ussayed] who was wounded by a bullet to the head. A number of young Palestinians who were in the scene transferred the two wounded persons to the minibus. After the minibus drove for approximately 20 meters, Israeli military jeeps tried to stop it, but the driver managed to escape and reach Nablus Specialized Hospital. Mohammed arrived dead to the hospital, while Usaid [Ussayed] underwent a prolonged surgery, but he was pronounced dead on Sunday morning, 21 March 2010. Usaid [Ussayed] was student at an-Najah National University in Nablus”.

Jonathan Pollack, of Anarchists against the Wall, told Ma’an News Agency that that “It’s very clear this isn’t a rubber bullet … The IDF uses two types of rubber bullets; one is shaped like a ball and the other is cylindrical … The object lodged in Useid’s skull is shaped like a prism, pointed at the end. It’s a bullet.” This report can be read in full here.

Reuters reported that “Hamid al-Masri, a doctor who treated Osaid [Ussayed or Usaid or Useid] Kaddous [Qaddous etc.], presented an X-ray which he said showed a metal bullet lodged in his brain”. This Reuters report is posted here.

The Jerusalem Post’s Defense Correspondent Yaakov Katz reported later that “Judea and Samaria Division commander Brig.-Gen. Nitzan Alon on Sunday told Israel Radio that while the IDF probe into the deaths of two Palestinian youths in a clash with security forces in the West Bank village of Burin was not yet complete, he was certain that live ammunition was not used. A preliminary IDF investigation suggested that Ussayed Qaddous, 19, and Muhammad Qaddous, 16, were seriously wounded by rubber bullets fired in an effort to disperse a crowd of stone-throwers … According to military procedures, rubber bullets are only used after stun grenades and tear gas fail to disperse a crowd, Alon stressed, adding that the preliminary investigation had ruled out the possibility that soldiers used regular bullets. But Pollak contended that Qaddous was indeed killed by live ammunition. ‘There is an entry wound and an exit wound in his torso, and no rubber bullet in the world can cause such an injury’, Pollak said [see photos below, click on “read more”] … B’tselem made an identical argument. A senior IDF officer on Sunday morning also claimed that the youths would not have been killed if live ammunition had not been used. ‘Rubber bullets are used to prevent serious casualties and fatalities’, the officer told Army Radio, adding that ‘only a violation of procedures would lead to such a deadly outcome’.” This JPost story can be read in full here.

It is very significant that the JPost report got this confirmation from “a senior IDF officer” that it seems live ammunition was used in Iraq Burin.

Though they were apparently not used in this case, rubber bullets, also, can be lethal. The BTselem human rights organization notes on its website that “The Israeli security forces’ arsenal of means to disperse demonstrations in the Occupied Territories includes the use of ‘rubber’ bullets. These bullets are, in fact, steel bullets with thin rubber coats. Their use to disperse demonstrations is based on security officials’ belief that “rubber” bullets are less lethal than live ammunition and that, therefore, they are appropriate for use in situations which are not life-threatening to security forces or other persons. The drafters of the Open-Fire Regulations, however, were aware of the danger inherent in the use of ‘rubber bullets’. The Regulations emphasize that ‘The means for dispersing the riot may cause bodily injury and in certain circumstances also death’. Because rubber-coated steel bullets are intended for use where soldiers or other persons are not in life-threatening situations, the Regulations stipulate several restrictions concerning their use. According to the defense establishment, these provisions prevent the bullet from causing serious or fatal injury. According to these rules, the minimum range for firing ‘rubber’ bullets is forty meters, and use is limited to specially trained personnel. The Regulations emphasize that the bullets must be fired only at the individual’s legs, and that they are not to be fired at children or from a moving vehicle. The permission to fire potentially lethal rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinians to disperse ‘violent riots’ or demonstrations has led to the deaths of dozens of Palestinians. Viewing rubber-coated steel bullets as ‘less lethal’ than live ammunition leads one to possess a light trigger-finger. This phenomenon is only supported by the view of State Attorney’s Office that these deaths are ‘unavoidable mistakes’.” This can be viewed in full on the BTselem website here.

Haaretz reported that “The head of the local village council [in Iraq Burin], Abd al-Rahim Kadus, told Haaretz that every Saturday settlers come to the village, attack the locals and destroy property, leading to clashes with the Palestinians. Israeli troops usually intervene to break up the fighting, which then turns into a confrontation between young villagers and the soldiers. The Palestinians maintain that the two teenagers were hit by live ammunition and that the soldiers prevented Palestinian medical staff from evacuating them”. This Haaretz report is published here.

UPDATE: There are new reports of two more Palestinians shot dead on Sunday, near Nablus.  [This makes a total of four deaths in 24 hours.] Initial reports say the army said the two Palestinians tried to attack soldiers at a checkpoint, or steal their weapons… Ma’an News Agency is reporting that “Palestinian security sources identified the victims as 19-year-old farmers Muhammad Faysal and Salah Muhammad Qawariq. Both were from the Awarta village, southeast of Nablus, and were en route to farmland carrying agricultural tools and herbicide, the same sources said. Israel’s army said the two attempted to stab a soldier who was on a ‘routine patrol’ near the Awarta military checkpoint. ‘In response, forces opened fire and identified a direct hit’, an army spokeswoman told Ma’an … Red Crescent officials told Ma’an that the army informed them that two Palestinians were killed near the illegal Itamar settlement southeast of Nablus, asking them to come and evacuate the victims”. This Ma’an report is posted here.

The IDF spokepersons’ unit said in a statement that “During a routine patrol carried out by IDF forces southeast of Nablus, two Palestinians tried to stab a soldier. The forces opened fire in response, killing both terrorists. No soldiers were hurt and the circumstances of the incident are currently under investigation”.

YNet reported Sunday night — 12 hours after the two 19-year-olds were shot — that “the security establishment is looking into the possibility that one of the Palestinian teenagers who were killed near Nablus earlier in the day planned to attack the soldiers with a syringe containing an unidentified substance. The syringe, which was sent to a lab for tests, was found during a search of his belongings. The two Palestinians were shot as they approached a military checkpoint near the West Bank village of Awarta, southwest of Nablus. The two were said to be disguised [sic] as farmers. At a certain point, witnesses said, they began shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ and made threatening gestures towards the soldiers.  Fighters from the Nachshon Battalion of the Kfir Brigade shot the Palestinians to death. A military official said the two had the intention and means to harm the soldiers, who acted according to procedures. Palestinian sources in Nablus reported that the two were 19-year-old relatives Muhammad and Salah Kawarik from Awatra. According to the Palestinians, the two were holding agricultural equipment used as part of their work when they were shot to death by IDF soldiers. According to an initial IDF investigation, at some point one of the Palestinian teens pulled out a glass bottle filled with pebbles while the other held a syringe. A pitchfork and other tools were placed on the ground beside them”. This YNet report can be read in full here.

Reuters reported later that Palestinian government spokesperson Ghassan Khatib “called for an independent investigation into the killing of cousins Mohammed Qawariq and Saleh Qawariq on Sunday, citing witness accounts they had been shot only after being arrested“. The Reuters report is here.

The Stop The Wall campaign said in an email report received Sunday night that “Eyewitnesses from the houses overlooking the field the youth were crossing report that an Israeli occupation forces jeep approached the youth and stopped them. Additional military jeeps soon arrived at the spot. The youth were held for around seven minutes before the soldiers shot both youth from close range. Mohammad and Salah both died instantly. Later, a commander of the occupation forces approached the mayor of the village, Hassan Awwad, accusing one of the two youth of having tried to attack the soldiers. The mayor argues that knowing the two youth, given the circumstances and the fact that the two were already detained for some time before they were shot, the explanation of the IOF does not stand up in front of eyewitness testimonies, nor is it logical. He added that the inhabitants of Awarta have suffered for years from the assaults by settlers from Itamar settlement and by Israeli soldiers and thus have been avoiding clashes as much as possible”.

All four Palestinian teenagers were buried on Sunday.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has condemned these four deaths as “military escalation”, and called on the international community to intervene. A day earlier, Fayyad was showing UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-Moon around on a “brief” tour of some of the sights of the Israeli occupation — Jewish-only settlements on nearby hilltops, The Wall, and Ofer Prison and Military Courts complex — from a safe vantage point in Ramallah.

About three months ago, in December, three Fatah men were shot dead in Nablus by Israeli forces in pre-dawn raids after an Israeli settler was killed while driving on a road between two nearby Jewish settlements. BTselem demanded a “Military Police investigation into the circumstances of the killings of Ghassan Abu Sharakh, Nader a-Sarkaji, and ‘Anan Subuh in Nablus on 26 December 2009. B’Tselem further demanded that the Military Police investigate the soldiers’ violence against the families of the three men and the damage caused to their property” … BTselem said its own investigation “raises a grave suspicion that the soldiers acted unlawfully and, at least in the cases of Ghassan Abu Sharakh and Nader a-Sarkaji, made no attempt to arrest them before shooting them to death. This, in spite of the fact that the two had obeyed the order to exit their home, and were not carrying arms … B’Tselem says that the three Fatah activists were suspected by Israel of committing a serious offense, and stood to serve long sentences had they been convicted. However, as they were merely suspects, the army’s duty was to arrest them and bring them to trial. Israel denies that it carries out assassinations in the West Bank, yet B’Tselem’s investigation raise a grave suspicion that the soldiers acted as if they were on an assassination mission, not an arrest operation”.

Click below to view BTselem’s photographs of the entry and exit points of the bullet that killed Mohammed Qaddous — evidence, some say, that this was clearly not a rubber bullet. Reuters reported that “Ahmad Hammad, a Nablus doctor, showed a Reuters journalist a photograph of what he said was a bullet entry wound in Mohammed Kaddous’s chest and an exit wound in his back”. It was, moreover, one very precise and accurate shot, fired by an expert marksman, or sniper:

Continue reading Is this a rubber bullet?

It's Friday – are these kids still being detained?

It was a busy night for IDF forces operating in the West Bank overnight on Wednesday: they conducted a number of raids, including the home of the PA security officer who stabbed and killed an IDF soldier at the Tapuah junction south of Nablus. Two brothers of the attacker were taken away for questioning (though the IDF has suggested that the PA might be allowed to do its own investigation, but it is not clear if the PA will have access to these two suspects…)

It will be recalled that just after Christmas, following the shooting death of an Israeli settler driving on a road between nearby settlements, the Palestinian Authority (PA) rounded up some 150 Palestinians for questioning, but the IDF raided the home of three suspects in and around Nablus a couple of days later — and none of the suspects were taken alive. They were all shot and killed, some in front of their families. The IDF said the suspects were behaving in a threatening manner, but witnesses said otherwise. The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem has called for an official investigation.

On the same night, last Wednesday, as Ma’an News Agency reported, “Three other raids occurred in the West Bank between midnight and sunrise, targeting Palestinians from the Ramallah and Bethlehem governorates. Twenty-one of those detained were taken from the Jalazon Refugee Camp near Ramallah in a mass raid of the small area [n.b. – Jalazone Refugee Camp is right outside the Beit El settlement, guarded by the Beit El military base, and a few young adolescents have been shot by Israeli security over the past year for approaching too close, or on suspicion of “planning attacks”].

The Ma’an report continues —
“Those taken were identified as:
Muhammad Rebhi Masaroh, 18
Zeidi Mahmud Abdul Rahim Zed, 17
Malek Rabah Mamoun Nakhleh, 20
Muhammad Khaled Mahmud Nakhleh, 16
Yassen Ahmad Nakhleh, 16
Hussein Theeb Sharaikeh, 15
Naser Kamal Ahmad Sharaikeh, 15
Khaled Marwan Dalabsheh, 17
Mahmud Ramadan Sharai’a, 16
Muhannad Ramada Alayan, 18
Ahmad Hussein Theeb Sharaikeh, 15
Khaled Marwan Misbah Dalabshehm, 16
Ahmad Khaled Wasfi Sa’adat, 16
Muhammad Mahmud Khalil Nakhleh, 16
Ahmad Mahmud Khalil Nakhleh, 15
Muhammad Mahmud Abdul Aziz Zeid, 16
Mu’aied Mahmud Fouzi Nakhleh, 16
Hussein Khaled Al-Areesh, 18
Ahmad Muhammad Sha’ban Ghazawi, 17
Amr Zuher Dar Awwad, 16
Mahmud Ramadan Sanad, 16
In, addition, the Ma’an report says, in Bethlehem, “forces detained Mahmud Jamal Mustafa Masalmeh, 25, and Omar Jalal Khalil Shalsh, 16.
This Ma’an report is published here.

So, the question now is: are these kids still being detained? Where? Have they seen a lawyer? How are they being treated?

And that wasn’t all.

The offices of Stop The Wall campaign in Ramallah were raided from 1 to 4 am the same night. And, the wife of the Mayor of nearby El-Bireh was also detained, apparently on suspicion of supporting Hamas, as her husband reportedly does.

And, as Iraeli journalist Lisa Goldman noted in a tweet on Twitter: “In daring night-time op, IDF raids ISM offices in Ramallah, confiscating T-shirts & bracelets engraved w/ ‘Palestine’.” Her tweet links to this story by Nir Hasson in Haaretz yesterday here, which notes that it was the second, yes, second IDF nighttime raid in a week on the same ISM apartment — yes, it is apparently an apartment.

It was also on Wednesday.

The earlier raid was on Sunday. One of the inhabitants who was present both times — and who was not detained, because his papers were in order, unlike the case of two of his female colleagues who were hauled away in the earlier raid — said that the IDF soldiers did not even knock! They used a crowbar to break open the lock on the door, and barged in. The door had not been repaired after the first raid, so the IDF didn’t even have to break in the second time — they just barged in through the broken door. This person told me that computers and videos and documents were also taken the first time, and one or two computers were seized again the second time

The two women who were hauled off in the first post-midnight but pre-dawn raid were not immediately deported — as happened to another ISM volunteer, Eva Novakova of the Czech Republic, who was seized from her apartment at the very center of Ramallah, just off Manara Square, and taken almost directly to the plane at Ben Gurion airport around 11 January. The two women seized this week were able to appear before a judge, who ordered them released on bail while they deal administratively with their visa situations — however, they were banned from returning to the West Bank…

Haaretz identified them, in the Nir Hasson article, as Ariadna Jove Marti of Spain and Bridgette Chappell of Australia.

As Haaretz noted in its article, “ISM, founded soon after the second intifada began in September 2000, is a very small group. It usually has less than 20 activists in the West Bank at any one time. Nevertheless, it has been heavily involved in anti-Israel protests, and is currently active in the demonstrations against house demolitions in East Jerusalem as well as the protests in Bili’in and Na’alin. It also has four activists located in the Gaza Strip. Two ISM activists have been killed while protesting, Rachel Corrie in 2003 and Tom Hurndall in 2004; two others have been seriously wounded”.

Earlier in the Second Intifada (and particularly from 2003 until 2005, in particular), everyone suspected of being an ISM activist was particularly singled out for special treatment, long detentions, invasive searches, and the lit, at Ben Gurion Airport. Until very recently, the situation had improved for everybody at the airport. But, it appears to have deteriorated again, with the recent crack-down that started in December, and intensified in January, and continues today.

It appears that with each raid, the IDF is refining its techniques, as some of those targetted have the opportunity to be hauled before Israeli judges, who then object to this or that tactic, to make their raids comply with Israeli law …

Then, on Thursday, as Ma’an News Agency reported, “Israeli forces entered Barta’a Ash-Sharqiya village Thursday before sunrise and handed five families demolition orders for their homes and agricultural buildings in area west of Jenin.  Member at the Barta’a village council Tawfiq Qabha said that the forces overran the village and woke five families in the middle of the night, pounding on doors and handing over warnings that homes would soon be demolished” …  This report is posted here.

New revelations continue to emerge about IDF "flexible" rules of engagement in last Gaza war

Somehow, the Jerusalem correspondent of the British newspaperThe Independent, Donald Macintyre, got ahold of an unpublished article written after what was clearly very extensive work by an Israeli journalist for Israel’s largest-circulation Hebrew-language newspaper (Yediot Ahronot).

Somehow — despite the immense pressure being exerted on Israeli soldiers not to talk about their experiences in Gaza a year ago — the (unnamed) Israeli journalist who wrote the article got access to — and gained the confidence of — some Israeli military officers who served in key positions during the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead from 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009.

These sources have given some sensational testimony — still unpublished in the Israeli newspaper, but revealed publicly for the first time today in The Independent.

One of the soldiers is reported to have said that ” ‘any movement must entail gunfire. No one’s supposed to be there’. He added that at a meeting with his brigade commander and others it was made clear that ‘if you see any signs of movement at all you shoot. This is essentially the rules of engagement’.” Another soldier in the war-room reportedly explained that: “This doesn’t mean that you need to disrespect the lives of Palestinians but our first priority is the lives of our soldiers. That’s not something you’re going to compromise on. In all my years in the military, I never heard that”. According to The Independent, this same soldier “added that the majority of casualties were caused in his brigade area by aerial firing, including from unmanned drones. ‘Most of the guys taken down were taken down by order of headquarters. The number of enemy killed by HQ-operated remote … compared to enemy killed by soldiers on the ground had absolutely inverted’.”

Continue reading New revelations continue to emerge about IDF "flexible" rules of engagement in last Gaza war

PA, again, is victim…

What upset the Palestinian Authority officials after the IDF raids on Nablus in which three “suspected” or “wanted” Palestinian men, all members of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, were shot in what not only Palestinians but also some Israelis (such as the human rights organization B’Tselem) say were “extrajudicial killings”?

Haaretz tells us that “The PA on Saturday complained to the U.S. that during the raid Israel had unjustly invaded area A, for whose security the Palestinians are solely responsible. The PA demanded that the Americans voice their own position on the matter. Over the weekend, the Palestinians also protested to the coordinator of government activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, that IDF soldiers had entered area A in Nablus and had not allowed PA security forces to arrest the wanted men”. This was contained in a Haaretz article that can be read in full here.

What is “area A”? It is one of three designations assigned, during Israeli-Palestinian negotiations of the Oslo Accords, of the occupied Palestinian West Bank territory. Area A, which as Haaretz reported is supposed to be under full Palestinian security control, is actually under as much Israeli control as Areas B (supposedly joint control) and Area C.

The Israeli Minister of Defense (currently, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak) rules the West Bank. Decision about the deployment of any Palestinian forces, in any part of the West Bank whatsoever, including Area A, is decided by the Israeli Defense Ministry.

Israeli security and military forces make regular — daily and nightly — incursions into Area A of the West Bank. Does the PA protest?

For example, as Ma’an News Agency reported today, “Israeli forces detained nine ‘wanted’ Palestinians during overnight operations in the West Bank, the military said. A military official said two people were arrested in Qalandiya south of Ramallah, one in Biddu also south of Ramallah, two in Surif near Hebron, and four in Beit Awwa southwest of Hebron”. These places are all in Area A. The Ma’an report is posted here.

The Jerusalem Post’s well-informed military correspondent Yaakov Katz reported today that “The IDF raid in Nablus on Saturday, during which the three murderers of Rabbi Meir Chai were killed, appears on the surface to be just another military operation in the West Bank. It was, however, much more, and resonated widely at Sunday’s cabinet meeting in Jerusalem due to the identities of two of the terrorists and the ongoing negotiations for the release of Gilad Schalit. One of the terrorists was Raed Sarkaji, a known Tanzim operative, who was released in January 2009 from an Israeli prison after serving a seven-year sentence on terror charges. Another was Anan Subuh, an Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades operative who had received a pardon from the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) as part of the 2007 deal, under which 400 Fatah terrorists handed in their weapons, promised to cease their terror activity and in return were assured that the IDF would stop hunting them. The timing could not have been better for the opponents to the Schalit deal, who have long argued that the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners would mean more terrorist attacks against Israel. Sarkaji and Subuh are proof of this. This does not mean that all Palestinians released from jail return to engage in terror activity or that the fugitive deal is a failure. On the contrary, the fugitive deal is considered a success since out of the 400, only a handful returned to terror and most of them have already been re-arrested. As a safeguard from all of this, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is demanding that the hard-core prisoners, slated to be released in a swap with Hamas, be exiled either to Gaza or overseas, but will not be allowed back to the West Bank. While the intelligence on the identity and location of the three suspects was obtained by the Shin Bet, the IDF had the option to transfer the information to the Palestinian Authority and ask it to carry out the arrests on its behalf. In December 2007, for example, the IDF allowed the PA to arrest two gunmen who shot and killed two off-duty IDF soldiers as they were hiking near Hebron. The two are still being held in a Hebron prison. Behind the IDF’s decision to carry out the operation on its own – a move that raised the ire of the Obama administration – was an understanding that the settlers in the West Bank would view a PA operation to capture the three as the final act of betrayal. After freezing settlement construction [n.b., for ten month’s only, one of which has already gone by] and ousting the Har Bracha Yeshiva from the hesder arrangement with the IDF, the Netanyahu government – the settlers would have said – is leaving our security in the hands of the Palestinians. In addition, there was the possibility that due to their affiliation with Fatah – the ruling party in the West Bank – the three might have been let off the hook by the PA. This was a chance Israel was not prepared to take”… This insight into Israeli political and military strategy is posted here.

However, despite the IDF “clean-up” operation, the PA is continuing to “investigate” the killing of the Israeli settler, Rabbi Hai, last Thursday. Ali Waked has reported in YNet today that “The Palestinian Authority has arrested a Palestinian who was allegedly involved in last Thursday’s shooting attack, which left Rabbi Meir Hai killed. Ynet has learned that the Palestinian military intelligence arrested the suspect, who is considered a close friend of the three cell members. A Palestinian security official confirmed the arrest in a conversation with Ynet, but refused to say whether the man is suspected of being personally involved in the attack or whether he was arrested as part of the PA’s efforts to prevent a response to the assassination of the three Fatah cell members in Nablus on Saturday. The PA continued its efforts over the past day to calm the Fatah members and security officials who fear that the Nablus assassination marks the end of the truce with Israel and a return to the pursuit of wanted Palestinians. The Palestinians fear that those who were pardoned by Israel will continue to be pursued. The last Palestinian detainee is also included in the list of Palestinians pardoned by Israel”. This report is published today on the YNet site here.

There was more than a suggestion in media reports since Saturday’s IDF action in Nablus that the PA is blaming Hamas for the attack that resulted in the death of the Israeli settler from Shavei Shomron.

What else is really going on here, beneath the surface, as the Fatah-Hamas rivalry continues to play out, the Shalit deal may be coming to a climax, and the U.S. is preparing to make a new effort to get the Palestinian Authority back to the “peace talks” with Israel, a year after they were cut off during the IDF’s massive military operation in Gaza?

Richard Goldstone due in region this weekend to begin hearings on Gaza war

Until the last minute, it was not clear how South Africa’s Justice Richard Goldstone would arrive in the region this weekend with a mandate from the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva to begin an inquiry into the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead against Gaza (27 December – 18 January), or whetherIsrael will or will not let him enter the country, if he tries to come here.

Israel — which often prefers ambiguity — apparently did not reply to Goldstone’s request for a visa.

The mission’s mandate is to “investigate all violations of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after.”

Continue reading Richard Goldstone due in region this weekend to begin hearings on Gaza war

Medical care for Palestinian patients in chaos

At some point in January, during or just after the IDF Operation Cast Lead against Gaza, the Palestinian Authority decided to stop referring Palestinian patients to Israeli hospitals, and to stop paying for their treatment in Israeli hospitals.

As a result, Israeli hospitals stopped treating Palestinian patients.

This affected, as Israeli human rights organizations reported today, “coverage for chronically ill Palestinian patients, and those in need of complex care that is not available in other tertiary medical centers in the region. The result has been that an estimation of hundreds of Palestinian patients who were in the middle of long-term treatment regimes in Israel, including cancer patients in need of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and bone marrow transplantation, found their treatments interrupted with no alternatives”.
Continue reading Medical care for Palestinian patients in chaos

Meanwhile, back in Jerusalem – Part One

The second biggest news in Jerusalem (after Iran), the day after I returned from Geneva, was the film taken by a 14-year-old Palestinian girl of an instance of sadistic and dishonorable treatment by Israeli Defense Forces soldiers — including an officer — of a bound, blindfolded, and quiet Palestinian detained for demonstrating against the construction of The Wall in the West Bank village of Nil’in.

The footage was released by the Israeli human rights NGO B’tselem, and published by all the major Israeli media on Monday.

It can be viewed by clicking on the link on this page on the B’tselem website.

B’Tselem says that the video documents “a soldier firing a rubber coated steel bullet, from extremely close range, at a cuffed and blindfolded Palestinian detainee. The shooting took place in the presence of a lieutenant colonel, who was holding the Palestinian’s arm when the shot was fired”.

B’Tselem adds that “The incident took place on 7 July, in Nil’in, a village in the West Bank. A Palestinian demonstrator, Ashraf Abu Rahma, 27, was stopped by soldiers, who cuffed and blindfolded him for about thirty minutes, during which time, according to Abu-Rahma, they beat him. Afterwards, a group of soldiers and border policemen led him to an army jeep. The video clip shows a soldier aim his weapon at the demonstrator’s legs, from about 1.5 meters away, and fire a rubber coated steel bullet at him. Abu-Rahma stated that the bullet hit his left toe, received treatment from an army medic, and released by the soldiers. A Palestinian girl from Nil’in filmed the incident from her house in the village, and B’Tselem received it this morning [20 July] … B’Tselem immediately forwarded a copy to the Military Police Investigation Unit commander, with demand that an immediate Military Police investigation be opened, if it hasn’t [been done] already, and that the soldier be brought to justice. Additionally, B’Tselem demanded that the involvement of the lieutenant colonel who was holding the detainee is investigated. B’Tselem stressed that members of the security forces are obligated to report unlawful acts. It is even more serious [if] a high-ranking officer participates in such a whitewash”.

Israel’s YNet news reported that “The IDF has begun to investigate an incident in which rubber bullets were fired towards a bound Palestinian man who had been apprehended during the demonstrations against the border fence in the West Bank village of Naalin. A 14-year old girl from the village filmed the incident from the window of her home, and the tape has reached Ynet, though the first few seconds immediately following the shooting are missing. The IDF has stated that the incident is serious and negates the army’s values, and that the Investigating Military Police (IMP) have launched an inquiry into the matter after receiving the tape … ‘During the demonstration the soldiers caught me, arrested me – and after a few moments I heard shots and felt a fire in my body. I was afraid and didn’t know what it was’, Abu-Rahma said. The shots were fired while the officer was holding the Palestinian’s arm … The residents of the village are protesting against the IDF’s plan to confiscate half of the 2,000 acres belonging to the residents, which they claim represents only about a seventh of the amount of land they used to own. The IDF responded to the reports by stating that “this is a very serious and unlawful incident that negates the values of the IDF, in which firing as a means for the scattering of protests (not ‘live’ fire) was used against a Palestinian detainee, who had been arrested by our forces, after he had taken part in a violent demonstration against the construction of the separation fence in the village of Naalin. ‘The army’s code strictly prohibits the injuring of detainees and requires the soldiers to maintain respect for them and the wholeness of their bodies. Incidents of injured detainees are transferred, according to IDF policies, to the IMP to be investigated. In this case, following the transfer of the tape, Military Advocate General Brig.-Gen. Avihai Mandelblit has ordered the IMP to launch an investigation into the matter’. The IDF further stated that the Palestinian was examined by a military doctor and diagnosed with a very light wound on his big toe. He was released to his home without requiring any further medical treatment”. The YNet report can be read in full
here .

A later YNet report says that the soldier arrested for Naalin incident says he was ordered to shoot: “The commanding officer told me ‘shoot him, shoot him’, the IDF soldier from armored Battalion 71, who was documented firing a rubber-coated bullet at a bound Palestinian in the Naalin village near the West Bank city of Ramallah, said Monday during his interrogation by the Investigating Military Police (IMP). Defense Minister Ehud Barak said [during a Labor Party meeting] that ‘This is not how soldiers should behave’, adding that the incident ‘is an exception and is not indicative of the IDFor its norms. The IDF is an ethical and moral army and will prosecute to the full extent of the law in this case’. Knesset Member Ibrahim Sarsur (United Arab List-Ta’al) said the ‘horrific’ incident is proof that ‘the occupation corrupts, and it must be ended before it’s too late’. The Military Defense Counsel filed on Monday a motion for the soldier’s release with the Military Advocate General’s Operations’ Division, citing there is no reason to have him remanded. The soldier, operating under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Omri, was set to be released from the army in November, and was commended numerous times for his conduct during his army service. The soldier was surprised at his arrest by IMP investigators, giving them his preliminary version of the event which took place near the West Bank separation fence a fortnight ago. According to the soldiers, riots erupted in which a few Palestinians hurled stones at security forces. The soldier went on telling his investigators that at some point his commander gave him a direct order to shoot one of the Palestinians, whose arms and legs were bound. The soldier said that he had given the same version of the events during the operational inquiry performed by the battalion, knowing the matter would be taken up by the Judea and Samaria Division Commander, but claimed he didn’t receive any notice regarding further measures taken following the incident. The soldier futher stated that he was not reprimanded by the commander or any of the other officers present following the incident: ‘The commanding officer told me he was going to assume the responsibility’. The commanding officer was questioned Sunday by the IMP. According to his version, he never instructed the soldier to shoot the Palestinian, but only rattle his weapon so as to scare him. However, the commanding officer did not rule out the possibility that his subordinate may have misinterpreted his order. The Military Defense Counsel was enraged over the decision to detain the soldier, mainly due to the fact that the commanding officer was not detained. ‘This is a scandal. It’s an attempt to place the responsibility on the soldier’, a military source told Ynet. A source in the Military Advocate General’s Office hinted that the commanders’ handling of the matter was odd: ‘This type of event should be investigated at commanding officer level, and therefore a report must be submitted to the Military Advocate General as well as to the Investigating Military Police to determine if there is room for launching a criminal investigation. The second part was not executed in this case, and the question is why?’ However, the source admitted that the order to report to the IMP is not clear-cut, and that sometimes it is left up to the commanders to decide whether or not to submit a report”. This YNet report can be read in full here .

Now, the news has come that the soldier has been released from custody. And why? Because the commanding officer was not detained, as YNet also reports: “After single day of custody, a soldier who fired at bound Palestinian demonstrator released, returned to brigade. Soldier’s comrade: He feels betrayed; they want to place responsibility on him to cover up mistakes of others. The Military Advocate General’s Office on Monday decided to release from custody the soldier who was documented firing rubber bullets at a bound Palestinian man. Ynet has learned that a confrontation between the soldier, Staff Sgt. L., and his commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Omri, during questioning by the Investigating Military Police (IMP) revealed no new findings. Both sides reiterated their versions of the events. The soldier claimed he had been given orders to fire, and the commander denied this … The Military Advocate General’s Office has not yet closed the case, and when the IMP completes its investigation the office will decide whether to press criminal charges against the soldier and his commander, who held the Palestinian’s arm as the shots were fired. One day after IMP investigators detained the firing soldier he was released and returned to the Armored Corps brigade in which he serves. Following his arrest the Military Defense Counsel launched an appeal to the advocate general’s office demanding that the soldier be released on the grounds that the commander had not been arrested though he had been present at the scene. The defense counsel also claimed that since two weeks had passed since the incident, there was no longer any fear of the soldier repeating his actions. The advocate general’s office reviewed the claim and decided to release the soldier, however the investigation has not yet been concluded and its next step includes a lie-detector test distributed to both the soldier and the commander”. This can be read in full on YNet here .