Israeli authorities must end unlawful killings, willful injury, arbitrary arrests, torture and other ill-treatment, persecution and collective punishment against Palestinians, including many children, Amnesty International said in a public statement published today.
In the latest incident, Palestinian journalist Shirin Abu Akleh was shot in the head on 11 May while covering an Israeli military raid in the city of Jenin, in the northern occupied West Bank. Palestinians have been killed or injured as a result of the Israeli forces’ use of excessive force when policing protests or carrying out search and arrest raids. Some Palestinians appear to have been killed in acts that amount to extrajudicial executions, which constitute a crime under international law.
“The killing of veteran journalist Shirin Abu Akleh is a bloody reminder of the deadly system in which Israel locks Palestinians. Israel is killing Palestinians left and right with impunity. How many more need to be killed before the international community acts to hold Israel accountable for the continuing crimes against humanity?” said Saleh Higazi, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
The violence has been escalating since Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett took office on 21 June 2021, with the months of March and April seeing the highest number of Palestinians and Israelis killed outside of armed hostilities in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) in any two months since 2008. Between 21 June 2021 and up until 11 May 2022, Israeli forces killed at least 79 Palestinians, including 14 children in the OPT according to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and Amnesty International’s records. In March, Israeli forces killed 12 Palestinians, including three children. Another Palestinian was killed by an Israeli settler. During the month of April 2022, Israeli forces killed at least 22 Palestinians, including three children, according to Amnesty International’s records. Separate attacks by armed Palestinian individuals killed 18 people in cities across Israel since 22 March.
The alarming escalation in serious violations comes at a time when top Israeli officials have threatened further violence against Palestinians. Since the current escalation of violence, Israeli government officials, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, have made repeated statements that incite violence and encourage the use of unlawful force in addition to giving orders to shoot Palestinians who pose no imminent threat. Other politicians have also openly incited violence, highlighting the extent of Israel’s institutionalized discrimination against Palestinians. While Palestinian authorities in the West Bank have condemned all Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians, spokespeople for some Palestinian armed groups have encouraged such attacks.
“States around the world have a moral and legal responsibility to take immediate action to put an end to the continuing crimes perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians to maintain the calamity of apartheid. The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court should set the course for justice, truth and reparation to end the impunity that encourages these ongoing crimes,” said Saleh Higazi.
Amnesty International has spoken to nine witnesses, three lawyers representing Palestinian detainees, in addition to examining video and photographic evidence, making field observations, and collating information from human rights organizations, to analyze patterns of unlawful killings, arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment, and collective punishment of Palestinian communities. Amnesty International also corroborated information on fatal attacks against civilians in Israel by armed Palestinian individuals.
The killing of Palestinian children
Since the beginning of 2022 until 8 May, Israeli armed forces killed eight Palestinian children in circumstances that appear to be unlawful, including excessive and reckless use of lethal force, according to records kept by Amnesty International. In addition, an armed settler killed one Palestinian child during this period.
On 13 April 2022, Israeli forces fired at 16-year-old Qusai Fuad Mohammad Hamamra as they were policing a protest by Palestinians near the entrance to Husan, a town near Bethlehem. According to Defense for Children International Palestine, a human rights organization, Hamamra sustained multiple gunshot wounds. At least one bullet struck him in the head. The Israeli army said in a statement that a person in Husan was shot after hurling a Molotov cocktail at Israeli soldiers, who were not injured.
“I saw the blood at the place where he was shot,” said Amina Hamamra, Qusai Hamamra’s mother. “It was like when you slaughter a sheep. No one could get near because of the shooting. He had dreams. I had dreams for him. Now they are over.”
Brutal attacks at the al-Aqsa mosque
For the duration of Ramadan, which started on 3 April, and until 8 May, the Israeli authorities have restricted access for Muslim worshippers to the al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem, and set up semi-permanent checkpoints to block access on roads that lead to the mosque.
Israeli police have brutally attacked worshippers in and around the mosque and used violence that amounts to torture and other ill-treatment to break up gatherings. According to the Palestine Red Crescent Society, on 15 April, Israeli armed police detained more than 400 Palestinians, many of them children, following a six-hour escalation that left at least 150 Palestinians injured by rubber bullets and beatings with batons.
According to eyewitnesses, the police aimed at the upper body, including the face, back, and chest, when firing rubber bullets. They also targeted journalists, paramedics, women, elderly people and men with disabilities.
One eyewitness said: “Paramedics set up a tent on the mosque esplanade and the tent came under fire from rubber bullets, too. People who tried to reach the injured to carry them to the medical tent were shot at.”
Attacks against Israeli citizens
Separate attacks by armed Palestinian individuals killed 18 people in cities across Israel, including three police officers and two foreign nationals, since 22 March. Six Palestinian attackers were killed by Israeli forces while one attacker was killed by an armed Israeli citizen.
On 7 April, a Palestinian from Jenin refugee camp shot at people in a restaurant in Tel Aviv, killing three people and injuring a dozen more.
Following the attack, the Israeli authorities arbitrarily restricted freedom of movement for all residents of Jenin until 17 April. The two main military checkpoints controlling movement in and out of the city were declared closed. Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinian traders from Jenin were not allowed to cross the checkpoints for business, and approximately 5,000 permits for religious access were revoked.
“Attacks against civilians are shocking and rightly condemned by spokespeople across the world. Israel has a duty to protect everyone under its control and value the life of all equally, by tackling the root causes of violence and acting to end apartheid. Israel has proved time and again that it can care less for international law, thus it is the duty of states around the world to take action, hold Israel accountable, and dismantle its apartheid against Palestinians,” said Saleh Higazi.