Amnesty International called on the international community to suspend transferring arms to Israel to protest IDF treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank.
“Suspend transfers to Israel of munitions, weapons, and related equipment including crowd control weapons and devices, training and techniques,” Amnesty said in a 74-page report titled “Trigger- Happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank” that it issued on Thursday.
Arms transfers by the United States, the European Union and other countries should only be resumed once Israel can ensure that they will not be used to violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law, Amnesty said.
“Without pressure from the international community, the situation is unlikely to change any time soon,” said Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.
“Too much civilian blood has been spilled. This long-standing pattern of abuse must be broken. If the Israeli authorities wish to prove to the world they are committed to democratic principles and international human rights standards, unlawful killings and unnecessary use of force must stop now,” Luther said.
The report provided case studies of 22 Palestinian civilians killed by the IDF since January 2011, of which most were under the age of 25 and four were children.
According to Amnesty, at least 14 of the deaths occurred during protests against Israel. It noted that according to the UN, the IDF killed 45 Palestinians in the past three years.
According to Amnesty, the Palestinians who were killed did not appear to pose a direct and immediate threat to Israeli soldiers in the 22 cases listed.
It added that “in some, there is evidence that they were victims of willful killings, which would amount to war crimes.”
The report further stated that in that same three-year period, Israeli forces in the West Bank seriously injured 261 Palestinians, including 67 children, by firing live ammunition at them. It said soldiers wounded another 8,000 Palestinians, including 1,500 children, by other means, including rubber- coated metal bullets and teargas.
“The staggering numbers of wounded provide a sobering reminder of the relentless daily danger faced by Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank,” Luther said.
“The frequency and persistence of arbitrary and abusive force against peaceful protesters in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers and police officers – and the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators – suggests that it is carried out as a matter of policy,” Luther added.
The report called on the IDF to stop using live ammunition and rubber-coated bullets except when necessary to protect lives. It also asked the IDF to stop using teargas against Palestinians, explaining that the chemicals contained within it were dangerous.
It called on Israel to provide reparations to Palestinians the IDF had unlawfully harmed. It also urged the IDF to protect Palestinians from attacks by West Bank settlers.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the report “smacks of bias, discrimination and racism.”
He accused Amnesty of wanting to deprive Israel of the right to self-defense.
“Amnesty takes to making up its own laws. In their frenzied public relations stunt to grab a quick headline, they innovate in the legal realm: no right of self-defense under fire [for Israelis],” he said.
“Amnesty lies by omission, and otherwise.”
The IDF said that Amnesty was ignoring the substantial increase in Palestinian violence against Israel in the last year. In 2013, Palestinians injured 132 Israelis, almost double the number of those harmed in 2012, the IDF said.
It noted that this was “no surprise, considering that over 5,000 incidents of rock-hurling took place, half of which were toward main roads.”
It added that “there were 66 further terror attacks, which included shootings, the planting of [improvised explosive devices], blunt weapon attacks and the abduction and murder of a soldier.”
The report, it said, also showed “a complete lack of understanding as to operational challenges the IDF is posed with in the West Bank.
“Where feasible, the IDF contains this life-threatening violence using riot dispersal means, including loud sirens, water cannons, sound grenades and teargas.
Only once these tools have been exhausted, and human life and safety remains under threat, is the use of precision munition authorized,” it said.
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