Routine violations of IDF riot dispersal regulations by soldiers, unnecessarily endangers Palestinian protesters in the West Bank, the non-governmental group B’Tselem charged on Monday in a new 31-page report.
It called the IDF to prohibit use of live ammunition including 0.22 inch-caliber bullets for crowd control, except in instances of mortal danger.
Use of rubber coated metal bullets should also be restricted to instances of mortal danger, and should be a preliminary measure before firing live ammunition, B’Tselem said in the report.
Firing 40mm tear gas canisters directly or horizontally at individuals should be prohibited, the report further argued.
B’Tselem has worked on the report, “Crowd Control: Israel’s use of Crowd Control Weapons in the West Bank” for the last year.
It comes after a decade in which the IDF and Border Police respond to multiple weekly Palestinian West Bank demonstrations that often involve stone throwing.
According to B’Tselem, since 2005, at least 56 Palestinians have been killed during protests or clashes with the IDF, that did not involve live fire from the Palestinians.
It explained that 6 Palestinians were killed by rubber coated metal bullets, two from tear gas canisters fired directly at them, two from .22 caliber bullets and 46 from 5.56 caliber bullets.
The IDF said that the report was biased and charged that it cherry picked incidents, which did not reflect the army's regular work in the field.
The military’s riot dispersal procedures are coordinated with legal experts and soldiers are trained to use these methods and understood the regulations, the IDF said.
Use of riot dispersal methods are executed based on security considerations and the nature of the disturbance, it said.
"The IDF does its best to ensure that riot dispersal means are carried out in accordance to relevant rules of engagement, with the least amount of harm to the rioters." The IDF takes seriously and investigates incidents where the rules of engagement have been breached, it said.
B’Tselem in its report agreed that the IDF crowd control weapons are supposed to be non-lethal, if used properly.
These riot dispersal weapons include tear gas, rubber coated bullets, stun grenades, live ammunition, skunk and water cannons, pepper pray, and sponge rounds, it said.
“But in practice, members of the security forces make almost routine use of these weapons in unlawful, dangerous ways, and the relevant Israeli authorities do too little to prevent the recurrence of this conduct,” it said.
It noted in particular that the 40mm-caliber tear-gas grenade, introduced in 2008, was designed for indoor use but was activated by the IDF in outdoor situations where it is more dangerous.
“Senior officers on the ground back up their troops in such incidents, and the law enforcement authorities refrain from promoting accountability in cases where orders were allegedly breached,” it said.
It added that most investigations were closed, without any action taken to hold the perpetrators or their superiors responsible.
Video, from November 2011, shows IDF soldiers using rubber bullets, tear gas to disperse stone-throwers in Hebron, West Bank.