Palestinians report increased use of live rounds after Israeli politicians called for greater force to quell protests.
An Israeli soldier readies a weapon during recent clashes with Palestinians in the West Bank town of Hebron [AFP]
|Israeli soldiers chase down protesters in a West Bank village and run straight into a barrage of rocks thrown by cheering Palestinians. The soldiers are forced to make a hasty retreat, all the while being pelted by stones.Amateur video footage showing the incident earlier this month in the village of Kufr Qaddoum has prompted high-level Israeli politicians and military officials to call for wider use of live ammunition to quell such demonstrations in the occupied territories.During a recent meeting of Israel’s Ministerial Council, Eli Yishai, Israel’s interior minister, and Shaul Mofaz, the head of the Kadima opposition party, both demanded that soldiers be allowed to use maximum force against threats from Palestinians – including live ammunition.”A soldier operating in the field has the option to make the appropriate decision after evaluating the situation and the amount of danger he and his colleagues are facing, and that based on his personal evaluation, he can resort to the use of live ammunition,” a senior Israeli military commander in the West Bank was quoted by Israel TV’s Channel 7 as saying.
When asked about the use of deadly force, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman told Al Jazeera in an e-mail: “The rules of engagement have not changed.”
Morad Shtiwi, the coordinator of weekly non-violent protests in Kufr Qaddoum, the village where the video of escaping Israeli soldiers was filmed, says the protest took place on December 7, shortly after the latest Israeli attack on Gaza.
Shtiwi says that Israeli politicians were embarrassed by the incident, and demanded soldiers be given permission to shoot live ammunition rather than run away.
“After this, we heard that the soldiers want to use live ammunition … so for the next week’s demonstration we were very careful. We invited a lot of people – internationals, Israeli activists and the media – because we knew the Israeli soldiers would be angry,” Shtiwi explains.
Another Israeli spokesman said regardless of statements made about the use of live ammunition, soldiers are obligated to follow an ethical code known as “The Spirit of the IDF“.
“IDF soldiers will not use their weapons and force to harm human beings who are not combatants or prisoners of war, and will do all in their power to avoid causing harm to their lives, bodies, dignity and property,” it reads.
But Abir Kopty, a member of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, says shooting at Palestinians with live ammunition is nothing new. “According to Israeli military law, every protest in the West Bank is considered illegal and it allows them to use what they call ‘dispersal means’ – this ranges from tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets to live ammunition.”
Shooting in Hebron
Less than a week after Israeli politicians called for wider use of live ammunition, a teenager celebrating his 17th birthday, Muhammed Salaymah was gunned down at a checkpoint by Israeli police in the Old City of Hebron in the West Bank.
“They shot him directly with live ammunition. Usually they don’t do this,” says Issa Amro, a human rights coordinator in Hebron.
Amro says that recently he and other Hebron residents have noticed an increase in the use of live ammunition against demonstrators.
Beginning in the late 1960s, Israeli settlers began taking over buildings in the centre of Hebron’s Old City. The settlements were accompanied by dozens of Israeli checkpoints stationed in the winding alleyways, as well as Israeli military and police forces on the ground and on rooftops.
Conflict between Israeli settlers, the Israeli military and Palestinian residents has been endemic since the settlers’ arrival.
Despite this, Amro says residents in Hebron are not used to regularly hearing live ammunition being fired. Since Israeli politicians began talking about giving soldiers more freedom to use live bullets, they say they now hear it almost on a daily basis.
“After the killing of Salaymah, it was obvious they were shooting more live ammunition. They shot another teenage boy with three bullets while he was protesting the killing,” Amro says.
“I see the soldiers being more violent, more aggressive towards the Palestinians – women, children, normal people – not only shooting live bullets but in the everyday treatment of the people.”
He described how a journalist he knows was covering the protests following Salaymah’s death when he was attacked by Israeli soldiers. The journalist was forced to take off his clothes as the soldiers beat him to the ground, pointed a gun in his face and told him they were going to shoot him – then shot in the air. Two journalists from Reuters were given the same treatment.
“The Israeli soldiers are working against any voice who wants to speak out against the violence and the occupation in the West Bank,” Amro says.
Kopty says in addition to the killing of Salaymah in Hebron, two other protesters were killed during West Bank protests against the war in Gaza: Hamdi Falah from Hebron and Rushdi Tamimi from Nabi Salah.
“About 10 more protesters suffered injuries from live ammunition in addition to dozens of injuries from rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas canisters shot directly at protesters,” Kopty tells Al Jazeera.
Using live ammunition
In another West Bank village that organises weekly, nonviolent protests, Manal Tamimi – a member of the resistance movement – also says she has seen an increase in the use of live ammunition recently.
“Since the Gaza war they began to use more live bullets than ever … and after the protest in Kufr Qaddoum [an Israeli military official] said these soldiers’ lives are in danger and they have to protect themselves. He gave the order to Israeli soldiers to use live ammunition,” Tamimi says.
Just two days before the war in Gaza ended, her 30-year-old cousin Rushdi Tamimi was shot at a protest with a rubber-coated steel bullet, and died of his wounds two days later, says Tamimi.
“Like Muhammed Salaymah in Hebron, my cousin didn’t do anything to the soldiers … he didn’t cause any threat to the soldiers’ lives,” Tamimi says.
“He couldn’t escape because of the injury … One soldier ran towards him and shouted at him. Then when he was very close, he shot Rushdi again in the torso with live ammunition at point blank,” Tamimi says. A video posted to YouTube purports to show the shooting.
“He screamed, then the soldier hit him in the head with his gun, and he was bleeding from his head. He died later in the hospital.”
Manal Tamimi says Israeli soldiers have been shooting live ammunition almost from the beginning of the protests – whereas before they fired teargas and rubber-coated steel bullets before resorting to live ammunition.
Since the end of the last Palestinian revolt, live ammunition has not frequently been used at protests.
Amro says he believes Israeli politicians are creating an environment of hatred and vengefulness against Palestinians, and this is spurring the soldiers to shoot more live rounds.
“They didn’t manage to destroy Gaza and get out all of their aggression, so they are taking it out on the West Bank people,” Amro says. “They want to teach the Palestinians a lesson that they are not free … They don’t want us to have freedom of expression – we have nothing now.”
Category Archives: Other villages
By Popular Struggle Coordination Committee: 20 November 2012
Nariman Tamimi and son Waed, at her brother’s funeral.
Tuesday report: Marches took place in several locations and cities across the West Bank, one injured in the head from tear gas grenade and more than thirteen arrested.
Nabi Saleh: Thousands took part in martyr Rushdi Tamimi’s funeral today. The funeral procession began in Ramallah hospital and marched through Irsal Street in the city, followed by a military funeral. His burial took place in the village of Nabi Saleh. Youth clashed with the army who fired tear gas, rubber coated steel bullets and live ammunition.
Hebron: about ten thousand participated in the funeral of martyr Hamdi Falah. Clashes erupted following the funeral and spread across the city and governorate. Clashes were also reported at Bab Alzawyeh by the old city, which continued until the late evening. wo people were arrested.
Jenin: More than a thousand protesters marched today from Jenin city to the Jalameh checkpoint. Clashes erupted with the army who fired tear gas canisters and rubber coated steel bullets extensively. Six people were reported to have been arrested.
Atara: hundreds of protesters reached Atara checkpoint. Clashes erupted with the army. Few injuries were reported from rubber coated steel bullets. Soldiers also attacked two photojournalists today.
Ni’lin: clashes erupted between tens of residents and soldiers after the army entered the village. Soldiers are fired live ammunition, tear gas and rubber coated steel bullets.Nablus: Hundreds of protesters marched toward Huwara military checkpoint. Soldiers fired great amounts of tear gas and rubber coated steel bullets. Several cases of suffocation were reported.
Bethlehem: more than a thousand protesters protested next to Belal Ben Rabah Mosque (Rachel’s Tomb). Clashes erupted with soldiers as they raided the entrance of the city. More than ten injuries were reported from rubber coated steel bullets and tear gas, including one from a canister hitting a protestor’s head. Two people were arrested.
Jerusalem: Four students were arrested during a demonstration at the Hebrew University against the assault on Gaza. Clashes also erupted with the army at Al-Issawiyeh village. Soldiers shot tear gas at houses and rubber coated steel bullets at protesters.
By Popular Struggle Coordination Committee: 27 January 2012
Demonstrations in Nabi Saleh, Kufr al-Dik and Kufr Qaddum took place this week in somber weather.
Dozens joined the weekly protests in Nabi Saleh this week. The march proceeded from the center of the village towards the main roads where several jeeps were awaiting the protesters. Heavy showers of both rain and tear gas caught the march on its way, as well as the notorious “skunk”, a water cannon spraying foul-smelling water. Despite this, the protesters kept on chanting and marching for about 20 minutes. Most of the protests went bank into the village as showers intensifies, however a small number of determined local youth remained in the fields and some clashed erupted between them and the soldiers. During the clashes the army shot rubber coated bullets at the youth, lightly injuring one young boy.
In Qaddum, more than 200 people joined the demonstration. They marched towards the main entrance to the village while cheerfully singing and chanting. A line of soldiers was awaiting the march, and as soon as it was in sight began shooting large amounts of tear-gas canisters directly at the protesters. Another group of soldiers, based on the hilltops also threw tear-gas canisters into the populated areas of the village, including into houses. Clashes persisted for less than an hour, following which protesters dispersed voluntarily, making their way back to the village in a symbolic victory march.
A similar demonstration was also held in Kufr al-Dik, no injuries or arrests were reported.
Bil’in village joins Nabi Saleh in protesting the stealing of Nabi Saleh land and fresh water springs
Video by Haithem Khatib (Bil’in village)
Video by Israel Puterman
On Saturday, 9th July 2011, the people of An Nabi Saleh staged a peaceful protest against the stealing of their land by the illegal colony of Halamish. For the first time in months, the villagers were able to reach the settler highway which bisects their traditional lands. None of the villagers were arrested or seriously injured. However, three Israeli solidarity activists were arrested. They have been banned for one month by the Israeli state from attending demonstrations in Nabi Saleh, Bil’in and Ni’lin.
Video: Residents from An Nabi Saleh and their supporters outside Ofer Prison demonstrating in support of Naji Tamimi and Bassem Tamimi who have been arrested by the Israeli Occupation Forces for their non-violent activism.