Five Palestinians Killed by Israeli Occupying Forces and by a Settler in the Occupied West Bank (Reporting Period: 11 - 24 March 2019)

Monday, 15 April 2019 20:14 Date: 15 April 2019

Five Palestinians Killed by Israeli Occupying Forces and by a Settler in the Occupied West BankBetween 11 March - 24 March 2019, Al-Haq documented five cases of killings of Palestinian civilians across the West Bank. In total, eight Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) over the past three weeks.[1] The number and the frequency of the killings reflect an Israeli policy of systematic resort to excessive, unnecessary and disproportionate use of lethal force. Cases documented in the reporting period of this weekly focus include killings as a result of excessive use of lethal force, extrajudicidial killings, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, as well as the targeting of protected persons and civilian objects,  constituting multiple violations of Israel’s obligations as Occupying Power as set forth under international law.

       1. One Palestinian Killed, Another Injured as a Result of IOF’s Excessive Use of Lethal Force at the Al-Nashash checkpoint

On 20 March 2019 at approximately 9:45 p.m., Ahmed Jamal Manasra, 22, succumbed to his wounds after being shot with live ammunition fired at him by the IOF at the Nashash checkpoint, by an Israeli soldier in a military tower located 50 meters away . Earlier that day Alaa’ Mohammed Ghayada, 38, had been shot in the abdomen when he stepped out to fix his car which had broken down at the Al-Nashash checkpoint, in the town of Al-Khader, south of Bethlehem. Alaa’ called to his wife to get help from four young men in a nearby car. One of the men, transported Alaa’ in a car to the Yamama hospital.

In the meantime Ahmed, one of the four young men present at the scene, tried to start the car in which Alaa’s wife and two daughters were still in and in a state of panic. Several shots were heard again as Ahmed attempted to start the car. When his attempts to start the car failed, and after the new shots were heard, Ahmed  stepped out of the car, and was immediately shot  by the same soldier in  the military tower, with three live ammunition bullets in the chest, leading to his immediate death. Ambulances arrived 15 minutes later, and transferred him to Beit Jala hospital where he was pronounced dead, despite attempts to revive him. Israeli soldiers told Alaa’s wife at the scene that her husband had been shot  unintentionally.[2] He underwent complex surgery to recover from his injuries, and has been lying in the intensive care unit at the Yamama hospital. Alaa’s car was also confiscated by the IOF.  

       2. Two Palestinians Killed by IOF After Invading Nablus to Facilitate a Religious Ceremony for Settlers

On 19 March 2019, at approximately 11:07 p.m., Raed Hashim Hamdan, 20, and Zaid Imad Nouri, 20, were killed after being repeatedly shot at by the IOF, in Amman Street in Nablus. Prior to that, the IOF invaded Nablus at approximately 10:30 p.m. to guard around 1,000 settlers who had entered the city to pray at the tomb of Joseph, situated inside Nablus. As Raed and Zaid were driving Amman street in a red car, they encountered the IOF. They stopped at a distance of approminately 5-10 meters away from Israeli soldiers. The soldiers, positioned behind buildings and commercial shops, opened fire at them. Later, the Israeli military spokesperson claimed that Raed and Zaid had thrown explosive bottles at the soldiers. However, none of the testimonies gathered from Al-Haq’s witnesses confirm this.

Al- Haq’s collected testemonies state that after opening fire at the car for the first time and as Raed and Zaid were still inside the car, a military bulldozer accompanying the IOF, flipped the car over multiple times and pinned it close to a residential building. A few minutes later, the bulldozer pulled the car again, 20 meters to the south. Then, around 12 Israeli soldiers opened fire at the car from a distance of five meters, using live ammunition.The IOF then pulled Raed and Zaid out of the car, who were apparently dead and transported the two young men to Huwwara checkpoint in black plastic bags.

A Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance tried to reach the injured several times, at approximately 11:15 pm, but its access was blocked, as it was hit directly with live ammunition. The bodies of the deceased Zaid and Raed, with  bullet marks in the body and head, were handed over to the Palestinian Red Crescent society at the Huwwara checkpoint the following day. The red car, alongside cameras from adjacent shops, were confiscated by the IOF.[3] The incident caused 28 Palestinian injuries, including 12 injuries sustained as a result of rubber-coated bullets, 1 due to shrapnel and 15 gas suffocation injuries.[4]

       3. Killing of Hebron Court Clerk Yasser Mohammed Shweiki in Hebron

On 12 March 2019, at approximately 12:40 p.m., Yasser Mohammed Shweiki, 41, was shot by the IOF inside the gates of the settlement building of Beit Al-Rajabi, east of Hebron. Forty minutes earlier, Yasser, who worked as a clerk at the Hebron Court of First Instance, parked his car which holds an official Palestinian governmental plate, a 100 meters away from the first checkpoint of Othman Bin Affan Street. The street is used by Israeli settlers to move between the Kiryat Arba settlement and settlement outposts in the city center of Hebron, and Palestinians are prohibited from using it. As part of his job duties, Yasser had to deliver official court summons to Palestinian citizens in Hebron.

Yasser inquired from shopkeepers in the area about the location of a house where he needed to deliver the court summons. One shopkeeper informed him that the people he was looking for did not live in the area. Yasser then was seen  walking  back to his car, looking tired and confused. Two to three minutes later, and a 100 meters north of the settlement outpost, residents of the area heard eight shots being fired and saw several Israeli soldiers standing in the gate of  Beit-Al Rajabi settlement building, over the body of Yasser. Residents deduced that he was shot by a settler inside the outpost. It remains unclear how Yasser was found at Beit Al-Rajabi. His body is still being withheld by the Israeli authorities.[5] Yasser’s car was then driven by an Israeli soldier, who placed an Israeli flag on it, and its whereabouts remain unknown. 

         4. Extrajudicial Killing of Omar Abu Laila in Abwein

On 19 March 2018 at approximately 08:00 p.m., Israeli soldiers were preparing to enter the old town of Abwein, 30 km from Ramallah. They gathered in front of Azzam Hamad’s house, used to host family guests, claiming that Omar Abu Laila, 19, who had allegedly killed an Israeli soldier and settler, was taking refuge in the house. The IOF dressed in civilian clothes,  arrested and tortured Oday Azzam Hamad, 17, and his father Azzam Hamad, 57, as well as his two sons. During the process, they  were beaten, assaulted and insulted, called “pigs” while interrogated regarding their connection to Omar.

After the arrests, approximately 20 IOF soldiers shelled and shot live ammunition at the house, where Omar was hiding. The military operation lasted for a number of hours, causing adjacent buildings to shake due to the continuous shelling. Palestinian citizens in the area, including women, children and elderly, who attempted to evacuate the neighbourhood, were targeted with live ammunition and their lives severely endangered as a result of indiscriminate open fire. Ambulances were also targeted with live ammunition. Only paramedics were allowed access after persistent demands. A journalist with his camera was hit by a sound bomb. At approximately 11:30 p.m., the IOF retreated from the village claiming that they had killed Omar Abu Laila. Blood traces were found in the middle of the house where Omar had taken refuge. The body of Omar is still being withheld by Israeli authorities.[6]

          5. Legal Analysis

As Occupying Power, Israel is bound by its obligations as set forth under international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL). In particular, Israeli soldiers’ policing duties are governed by international human rights law and the special provisions of the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials and Article 3 of the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials. The latter, restrict the use of firearms to situations of “self-defence or defence of others against imminent threat of death or serious injury” when it is “strictly necessary”.[7] Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) finds that everyone has the right to life and ”no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life”.

It is clear from the killings, as documented by Al-Haq during the reporting period that the Israeli soldiers’ use of lethal force was neither strictly necessary nor in self-defense of imminent threat to life. The case of Ahmad Jamal Manasra demonstrates that he was killed by the IOF while attending to the car of an injured person, who was also shot by the IOF. Both Ahmad Jamal Manasra  and Alaa’ Mohammed Ghayada were shot for no apparent reason, while unarmed, at a checkpoint in occupied territory, manned by soldiers and protected inside military towers.

Similarly, Raed Hashim Hamdan and Zaid Imad Nouri were killed by the IOF sitting in their car, while waiting to proceed past IOF soldiers. Several minutes after being shot, the IOF repeatedly opened fire at them again at a point blank range of four meters, despite the men being injured and not posing any threat to the lives of the soldiers.

The documented killing of Omar Abu Laila constitues a case of extrajudicial killing and reflects the IOF’s policy of disregarding Palestinians’ right to life.[8] Omar,who allegedly killed an Israeli soldier and settler, sought refuge in a building in Abwein. Omar did not stand trial before he was killed. This killing may amount to an extrajudicial execution prohibited under international humanitarian law and human rights law. Notably, Article 14 of the ICCPR entitles everyone “to a fair and public hearing”. As stated in Article 1 of the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, not even internal stability or public emergencies justify executions by government authorities without a fair trial.[9] The wilful deprivation of a fair and regular trial to Omar, who as a civilian, is a protected person may also amount to a war crime under the Rome Statute.[10]

The IOF’s use of lethal force is excessive, disproportionate and unnecessary, resulting in the unlawful and unjustifiable deprivation of life of five protected civilian Palestinians, in violation of Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).[11] In addition, the killings may amount to wilful killing, a grave breach of Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and war crime under Article 8 of the Rome Statute.[12]

The impunity under which Israeli soldiers operates violates Article 2 of the ICCPR and the General Provisions of the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials which affirm that soldiers’ excessive and arbitrary use of firearms and force should be punished as a criminal offence.[13] Al-Haq considers that lack of accountability is a major factor in ensuring the continued use of excessive lethal force against the protected civilian population, by the IOF.[14] In 2016, B’Tselem reported that, of the 739 cases they filed to the Military Advocate General in the past decade, only 25 lead to charges against implicated soldiers.[15]

Torture, Cruel and Inhumane Treatment

Oday Azzam Hamad, 17, and his father Azzam Hamad, 57 were beaten while being interrogated about their connections to Omar Abu Laila. The beatings they sustained may be classified as  torture and other cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or pubishment which is defined, and prohibited, by the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information”.[16] Torture, cruel or inhumane treatment, which Palestinians are often subjected to as a matter of policy[17] is prohibited according to Rule 90 of the ICRC study on customary law[18]. This prohibition appears repeatedly in international humanitarian law and human rights law, including, Article 7 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) which states that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.[19]

Notably, Oday Azzam Hamad, 17,  who is below the age of eighteen years, is considered a minor under Article 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).[20] Thus, his arrest violates Article 37 of the CRC which stipulates that it should “be a measure of last resort”, which must be carried out with “respect for the inherent dignity of the human person”.[21] Under no circumstances can he be subjected to “torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.[22]

Targeting of Protected Persons and Objects

Documentation by Al-Haq in this weekly focus reveals that protected persons and objects were targeted with live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets and sound bombs. Two ambulances were prevented from accessing and treating the injured in the cases of Omar Abu Laila, Raed Hamdan and Zaid Nouri. Preventing access to medical aid breaches Article 12 of the ICESCR which recognises everyone’s “right to health”.[23] The IOF’s targeting of ambulances with live ammunition, tear gas canisters and rubber-coated metal bullets violates Rule 29 of the ICRC study on international customary law.[24] According to the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, ambulances are protected objects and must under no circumstances be subject to attacks.[25] The IOF systematically attacks and blocks access to ambulances. For example, in 2018, 82 ambulances in Gaza and 14 in the West Bank were damaged or attacked.[26]

In addition, Al-Haq advises that journalists are protected persons under international humanitarian law and human rights law and notes that attacks on them are prohibited by Rule 34 of the ICRC study on customary international law[27], Article 79 of Additional Protocol I[28] and UN Resolutions 2222 and 1738[29].

[1] Including 3 Palestinians killed in the occupied West Bank between 4-17 March 2019. Read more: Al-Haq: Escalations in Killings in the Occupied West Bank (8 April 2019), available at: http://alhaq.org/images/stories/PDF/West_Bank_Weekly_Focus_8__Final_April.pdf

[2] Al-Haq affidavit no. E/132/2019, given by Maysa Jamal Ghayadah, resident of Nahalin, on 21.03.2019 and Al-Haq field report on the killing of Ahmad Jamal Manasra 23.03.2019

[3] Al-Haq report on the killings of Raed Hashim Hamdan and Zaid Imad Nouri on 27.03.2019

[4] ibid

[5] Al-Haq report on the killing of Yasser Mohammed Shweiki on 13.03.2019

[6] Al-Haq affidavit no. E/150/2019 given by Najah Mahmoud Hamad, resident of Abwain District, on 21.03.2019      Al-Haq affidavit no. E/149/2019 given by Ali Deeb Hamad, resident of Abwain District, on 21.03.2019

Al-Haq affidavit no. E/148/2019 given by Uday Azzam Hamad, resident of Abwain District, on 23.03.02019

[7] Section 9 of the Special Provision, Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (1990) and Article 3, Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials (1979)

[8] Extrajudicial killings violate the right to life regarded as customary law  and protected in Article 3, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), Article 6, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), Rule 89 , ICRC Study of International Customary Law (2005)

[9] The UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions (1989) were based on UN resolution 35/172 of 15 December 1980 on arbitrary summary or executions which reaffirmed that “no death sentences shall be carried out until the procedures of pardon and appeal have been terminated”.

[10] Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Crimial Court, available at: https://www.icc-cpi.int/nr/rdonlyres/add16852-aee9-4757-abe7-9cdc7cf02886/283503/romestatuteng1.pdf

[11] Article 6, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)

[12] Article 8, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (2002) and Article 147, Fourth Geneva Convention (1949)

[13] Article 2, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) and Section 7 of the General Provisions, Basic Principles on the USe of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (1990)

[14] To see other cases of Israeli soldiers’ impunity:

“Impunity prevails once again: Israeli court sentences IOF killer of Nadim Nuwwara to nine months imprisonment”, Al-Haq.org, 26.04.2018, Al-Haq, www.alhaq.org/advocacy/targets/accountability/81-general/1221-impunity-prevails-once-again-israeli-court-sentences-iof-killer-of-nadim-nuwwara-sentenced-to-nine-months-imprisonment

“Impunity for extrajudicial killing: Israeli soldier and killer of Abdel Fattah Al-Sharif released after mere 9 months in prison”, Al-Haq.org, 11.05.2018, Al-Haq, www.alhaq.org/advocacy/topics/right-to-life-and-body-integrity/1233-impunity-for-extrajudicial-killing-israeli-soldier-and-killer-of-abdel-fattah-al-sharif-released-after-mere-9-months-in-prison

“Impunity for Violence Against Palestinian Women and Girls Must End”, Al-Haq.org, 11.10.2010, Al-Haq, www.alhaq.org/advocacy/topics/civil-and-social-rights/126-impunity-for-violence-against-palestinian-women-and-girls-must-end

[15] “B'Tselem to Stop Referring Complaints to the Military Law Enforcement System”, B’Tselem, 25 May 2016, www.btselem.org/press_releases/20160525_occupations_fig_leaf

[16] Article 1, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984).

Even if Uday and Sultan’s treatment would not be considered torture, cruel or inhumane treatment is prohibited in Article 16, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984): “Each State Party shall undertake to prevent in any territory under its jurisdiction other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture as defined in article I, when such acts are committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official”

[17] to see more cases where Palestinians were cruelly and inhumanly treated:

“Account of a Palestinian Child: Arbitrary Arrest and Detention in Occupied East Jerusalem, Al-Haq.org, 31.08.2016, www.alhaq.org/documentation/weekly-focuses/1068-account-of-a-palestinian-child-arbitrary-arrest-and-detention-in-occupied-east-jerusalem

“Palestinians suffer ill-treatment at Huwwara checkpoint”, Al-Haq.org, 12.12.2013, Al-Haq, www.alhaq.org/documentation/weekly-focuses/765-palestinians-suffer-ill-treatment-at-huwwara-checkpoint

[18] Rule 90, ICRC Study in International Customary Law (2005), www.icrc.org/en/doc/assets/files/other/customary-international-humanitarian-law-i-icrc-eng.pdf

[19] Article 7, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966).

The IOF’s treatment of Uday and Sultan also violate General Comment No. 36 (2018) on Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, on the right to life. The General Remarks of the comment emphasize that the right to life includes “entitlements of individuals [...] to enjoy a life with dignity”.

[20] Article 1, International Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)

[21] Article 37, International Convention on the RIghts of the Child (1989)

[22] Ibid

[23] Article 12, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966)

[24] Rule 29, ICRC Study on International Customary Law (2005), ihl-databases.icrc.org/customary-ihl/eng/docs/v2_rul_rule29

[25] it Specifically violates Article 21, Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), Article 35, First Geneva Convention (1949), Article 21, First Additional Protocol (1977) and Article 11, Second Additional Protocol (1977)

[26] Data was recorded in the West Bank from 1 January to 17 December 2018 and in Gaza from 30 March to 17 December 2018.

“Situation Report: Occupied Palestinian Territory: 4-17 December”, World Health Organization Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, 21.12.2018, World Health Organization, http://www.emro.who.int/images/stories/palestine/documents/WHO-Health-Cluster-Special-SitRep-_4_-_17_Dec2018_.pdf?ua=1

[27] Rule 34, ICRC Study on International Customary Law (2005),  ihl-databases.icrc.org/customary-ihl/eng/docs/v1_rul_rule34

[28] Article 79, First Additional Protocol (1977)

[29] UN Resolution 2222 (2015), unscr.com/en/resolutions/2222 and UN Resolution 1738 (2006), unscr.com/en/resolutions/1738

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