Palestinians run from Israeli forces in Ramallah, January 9, 2019.
(photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)
Israeli security forces killed 290 Palestinians in 2018, including 55 minors, the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem announced on Thursday.
According to the report, 254 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip, 34 in the West Bank (including east Jerusalem) and two within Israel.
In the Gaza Strip, two of the casualties were women and 47 were minors. According to the NGO, more than half of the Palestinians killed (149) “did not take part in hostilities,” while 90 did and the status of the other 15 was unclear.
Another two Palestinians – one of them a 17-year-old – were killed after they crossed the security fence from the Hamas-run coastal enclave into southern Israel. While B’Tselem said that they had not taken part in hostilities, they did not specify when or under what circumstances they crossed the barrier.
“These incidents are a direct result of Israel’s reckless open-fire policy, authorized by the government and the top military command, and backed by the judicial system. As long as Israel adheres to this policy, despite its predictable outcomes, the casualties will continue to amass,” the group said.
Thousands of Gazans protest along the security fence on a weekly basis, taking part in “Great Return March” demonstrations which began on March 30, calling for an end to the 12-year-long Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
While the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza says that over 240 Palestinians have been killed and over 22,000 others injured since the Great March of Return began, according to B’Tselem, 190 demonstrators have been killed during the protests – 65% of all Palestinians killed by the IDF in 2018.
The use of “extensive live fire” by the IDF against the demonstrators “is both unlawful and immoral,” B’Tselem wrote in their report, adding that the majority of those killed were “unarmed and posed no danger to anyone.”
During the violent weekly protests, Gazans have been burning tires and hurling stones, grenades and other explosive devices towards IDF troops. They have also launched countless aerial incendiary devices into southern Israel, devastating thousands of dunams of land.
The first killing of an Israeli soldier along the Gaza front since Operation Protective Edge in 2014 also occurred during one of the weekly demonstrations, after an IDF force responded to a violent protest by 20 Palestinian youth some 400 meters from the border fence.
Staff Sgt. Aviv Levi was killed after he was shot in the chest by sniper fire.
According to B’tselem, another two Palestinians – one of them a 15-year-old teenager – were killed in demonstrations held before the return protests began. Another four Palestinians – a heavily pregnant woman, her infant daughter and two 14 year olds – were killed in air strikes on the Gaza Strip.
In the West Bank, IDF troops killed 34 Palestinians, including 7 minors. Eleven were killed after they attacked or attempted to carry out an attack against Israeli troops or civilians.
Another three were killed by soldiers who believed they were trying to carry out attacks, a claim disproved by B’Tselem in each case. Israeli civilians also killed three Palestinians, including Aysha Rabi, who died after Israeli settlers allegedly stoned the car she was riding in with her husband.
According to a statement provided to The Jerusalem Post
, the military said that “The IDF is committed to the rule of law and operates in accordance with both Israeli law and international law.”
“The IDF’s military legal system operates professionally, in a practical manner and without fear, to ensure the rule of law is upheld by those serving in the IDF. B'Tselem's claims that Israeli authorities operate unprofessionally and immorally lack basis.”
The IDF received the B'Tselem report via the media, and therefore makes no specific reference to any event mentioned in the report.
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