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HRW denounces Israel's 'unlawful' use of force in occupied Palestinian territories

Mariam Mecky , Sunday 11 Oct 2015
Israeli troops
Israeli troops detain wounded Palestinian protesters during clashes near the Jewish settlement of Bet El, near the West Bank city of Ramallah October 7, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)
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The New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) denounced the unnecessary use of violence by Israeli forces in the occupied Palestinian territories after a HRW staff member was shot and wounded during a peaceful demonstration in the West Bank, a press release by the organisation said on Sunday.

A research assistant at Human Rights Watch was shot by the Israeli occupation forces on 6 October, along with at least seven Palestinian protesters, while monitoring a demonstration in the West Bank, the statement said.

A wave of Israeli repressive measures against Palestinian protesters has left more than 20 Palestinians dead, including a 13-year-old boy, and more than 1,000 injured.

Israeli occupation forces have been using both live and rubber-coated steel bullets against demonstrators and at check-points in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1 October, the Palestinian Health Ministry said in a statement on Friday.

Meanwhile, four Israelis, three settlers and one soldier, were killed by Palestinians according to the Israeli government.

Palestinians have been protesting for weeks against Israel's attempts to build more settlements in east Jerusalem and force out Arab residents of the city that is meant to be a capital for any future Palestinian state.

Protesters reject repeated Israeli and illegal Jewish settler attacks on Al-Aqsa mosque and closing the Muslim holy site on a number of occasions to worshippers.

On Sunday, an Israeli airstrike in the besieged Gaza Strip killed a pregnant Palestinian woman and her two-year-old daughter, and the Israeli forces also shot dead a 13-year-old boy in Ramallah districton Sunday, AFP reported.

“Indiscriminate or deliberate firing on observers and demonstrators who pose no imminent threat violates the international standards that bind Israeli security forces,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch in the statement.

The research assistant, who was wearing a flak jacket marked “Press” was observing a demonstration consisting of over 100 Palestinian protesters including families and young people.

According to the research assistant, the forces fired without warning and there was no use of or imminent threat of violence by the protesters at the time.

"Two rubber-coated steel bullets of the type used by Israeli forces struck her flak jacket, one in her back and one that deflected off her upper torso and injured her jaw," the HRW statement said.

The rights group demanded that Israeli authorities investigate the 6 October shooting into the crowd of demonstrators, while calling on the Israeli forces to abide by the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.

Yet, HRW highlighted the lack of prosecution by Tel Aviv of Israeli officers who commit rights violations. 

According to the Israeli rights group Yesh Din, even on the rare occasions in which the Israeli military investigates soldiers suspected of violent criminal activity against Palestinians, it closes 94 percent of the cases without prosecuting.

Gaza has been the site of three Israeli aerial and ground offensives since 2008, but has remained mainly calm amid the recent unrest in the West Bank and occupied east Jerusalem until Friday.

Last summer alone, Israel’s 51-day assault on Gaza killed over 2,200 people and left more than 12,000 others injured. More than 100,000 people were displaced.

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