Surge in Israeli forces killing West Bank Palestinians

AFP , Tuesday 14 Nov 2023

With scores of Palestinians killed across the occupied West Bank in recent weeks, rights groups have accused Israel of giving soldiers free rein to shoot on site while war rages in Gaza.

Tulkarem, West Bank
Israeli forces raid a Palestinian town of Tulkarem, West Bank, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023. AP


In just over five weeks since the war on Gaza erupted on October 7, at least 190 Palestinians have been killed in the occupied West Bank, according to the Palestinian Authority's health ministry.

The figure is almost as high as the ministry's toll of 208 dead for the first nine months of the year up to the start of the war.

The surge in violence comes as raids by Israeli forces on Palestinian communities have multiplied in the West Bank, which has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Iyad Haddad, from the anti-occupation Israeli organisation B'Tselem, said "the Israeli army and settlers now have a free hand to fire on Palestinians in the West Bank" in an unprecedented way.

Since Monday alone, the health ministry said nine Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces.

The first was a 66-year-old taxi driver shot dead in Hebron, in the southern West Bank.

Seven Palestinians were subsequently killed during an Israeli raid in Tulkarem, in the north, while a ninth was shot dead near Hebron on Tuesday morning.

Last week, Israel's extreme-right National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who lives in a settlement himself, gave stark instructions to law enforcement.

"Zero tolerance. In case of doubt, there is no doubt," he said in annexed east Jerusalem, where a Palestinian was shot after allegedly attacking Israeli police.

Multiple gunshot wounds 

At least three Israelis have been killed in the West Bank since October 7, including one who was shot dead by a fellow soldier.

In the northern city of Jenin, physician Pedro Serrano recalled treating multiple gunshot wounds during a raid on Thursday.

Most "had been shot in the abdomen and the legs", said Serrano, from Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

"Some had an exploded liver or spleen, the others had serious vascular wounds," he added.

"There was also a really sad case, of a man who walked just in front of the hospital and was hit in the head by a sniper," said Serrano.

The Israeli incursion into Jenin was the deadliest Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank since at least 2005, according to United Nations data, with the Palestinian health ministry announcing 14 people were killed.

For its part, the Israeli military announced "10 Palestanians were killed, and over 20 wanted suspects were apprehended" in the densely-populated city, which saw gun battles between Israeli forces and Palestinians.

Two of those detained were members of the Islamic Jihad militant group, which is allied with Hamas, the army said.

'Soldiers shoot to kill' 

Since Al-Aqsa Flood Operation on October 7, Israel has relentless strikes and a ground invasion of Gaza, killing more than 11,240 people, including 4,630 children and 3,130 women, according to the Palestanian health ministry.

While the concurrent Israeli raids in the West Bank have frequently been fatal, other Palestinians have been killed in clashes.

Sayed Homeidat, a 17-year-old from Jalazone refugee camp, was one of the dozens of minors killed in recent weeks.

According to eyewitnesses, B'Tselem and Palestinian rights group Al-Haq, he was shot dead by an Israeli soldier standing more than a hundred metres away.

Israeli forces had blocked a road to repair a wall, which separates the camp from the Israeli settlement of Beit El on October 26.

Young Palestinians threw stones at soldiers but Homeidat was not involved, witnesses told AFP.

For Omran al-Risheq, from Al-Haq, "it's very clear that the soldiers shoot to kill even if they are not in danger".

The two rights organisations accuse the military of using live bullets, rather than other means, to disperse protesters.

Journalists working in the West Bank have confirmed that Israeli troops are not using tear gas as much as they used to before the war, while the killings have surged.

* This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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