Netanyahu responsible for executions of children, rights group says

Maureen Clare Murphy Rights and Accountability 26 November 2015

The human rights group B’Tselem excoriated Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, stating that he is responsible for “the transformation of police officers, and even of armed civilians, into judges and executioners” who slay Palestinians suspected of armed attacks in the streets.

“Your silence in the face of Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan’s saying that ‘every terrorist should know that he will not survive the attack he is about to perpetrate’ is tantamount to consent to this unlawful policy,” B’Tselem said, addressing the Israeli prime minister.

The Israeli rights group said the policy amounts to a de facto death sentence, even though capital punishment is banned in the country.

This apparent shoot-to-kill policy left three children dead this week, Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI) stated on Tuesday.

At least 94 Palestinians have been killed in a surge of violence since 1 October, and 19 Israelis were slain during the same period.

DCI has confirmed that 19 of the Palestinian fatalities were children, all but four of them killed while allegedly carrying out stabbing attacks on Israelis.

Videos and eyewitness accounts, however, cast doubt on whether some of these children were engaged in attacks, and point to reflexive use of deadly force when children could easily be apprehended and posed no immediate risk to anyone’s life.

Girl summarily executed

Security video footage shows the apparent summary execution of Hadil Wajih Awwad, 13, and the shooting of her cousin, Nurhan Ibrahim Awwad, 16, at Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market on Monday.

The 30-second video shows one of the girls running towards a man who appears to be holding a gun. The girl, holding what was reported to be a pair of scissors in her hands, lunges towards the man three times.

Each time the girl nears him, she halts, and the man is able to back away from her. The video does not show her ever making physical contact with him.

The man appears to fire at her as she is running away from him and a second armed man appears and repeatedly shoots at the girl, who falls to the ground.

The second man shoots at the second girl, seen lunging at the air, several feet away from anyone else. At the same time, a third man carrying a chair runs towards the second girl, knocking her to the ground, where she remains for a few seconds. Then the second man runs up to her and shoots her at point-blank range.

A fourth man runs up and shoots one of the girls as she lies motionless, face down on the ground.

The video shows no effort to arrest the girls, who appear to only posture rather than earnestly attempt to injure anyone.

Media reported that a 70-year-old Palestinian from the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem was injured in the alleged attack but the video does not show either of the girls making contact with anyone in the moments before they were shot.

Instead of being disarmed and taken into custody, the girls were knocked to the ground and shot at close range.

Hadil died at the scene, and Nurhan was seriously wounded and remains in critical condition, DCI stated on Tuesday.

It was reported that Hadil is the sister of Mahmoud Awwad, who died in November 2013 from injuries he sustained nine months earlier when he was shot in the back of the head with a rubber-coated steel bullet near the Qalandiya military checkpoint between Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah.

DCI said that it is also investigating the slaying of Alaa Khalil Hashash, 16, who was shot after allegedly attempting to stab an Israeli soldier at the Huwwara military checkpoint near the northern West Bank city of Nablus on Monday.

Run over by settler, shot dead by soldiers

A day earlier, another Palestinian child, 16-year-old Ashraqat Taha Qatnani, was shot dead by Israeli soldiers near Huwwara checkpoint after Gershon Mesika, a Jewish settler, ran his car into her.

“According to Israeli authorities, she was allegedly attempting to stab other settlers nearby,” DCI stated. “A witness told DCI that he saw the girl chase after three teenaged settlers before the car hit her.”

Mesika, the former head of the regional council for the northern West Bank settlements and guest of the European Parliament, stated in a video account translated by B’Tselem: “I didn’t stop to think, I hit the gas and rammed into her, she fell down and then the soldiers came and continued shooting and neutralized her completely.”

B’Tselem stated that “Mesika’s account clearly indicates that the soldiers shot Qatnani after she had already been hit by the car and was lying on the ground, posing no danger to anyone.”

The group added that in the cases of Qatnani and the Awwad cousins, “it is hard to see how the three girls committing the attacks posed mortal danger at the time they were shot. It appears that the security forces involved could have easily apprehended them without using live fire.”

According to DCI, Ashraqat Qatnani and Hadil Awwad are the third and fourth Palestinian girls to be killed while carrying out alleged stabbing attacks since 1 October.

Israeli Border Police shot dead Dania Irsheid, 17, on 25 October after she allegedly attempted to stab an officer at a military checkpoint near the Ibrahimi mosque in the West Bank city of Hebron.

But a Palestinian eyewitness who was next in line at the checkpoint told CNN that the terrified girl was shot several times while her hands were in the air and after her school bag was checked and no knife was found.

Bayan al-Esseili, 16, was also shot dead by Border Police in Hebron after an alleged stabbing attack on 17 October.

In both Irsheid and al-Esseili’s cases, eyewitnesses told media that Israeli forces denied medical treatment to the girls.

Left to bleed to death

Israeli soldiers are shown on video neglecting to give medical attention to a Palestinian man after he was shot in an alleged stabbing attempt on one of their forces on Wednesday.

Muhammad Ismail Shubaki, 19, died from his injuries hours after he was wounded near al-Fawwar refugee camp outside Hebron.

Video published by the Arabic-language Quds news network shows Shubaki lying on the ground, moaning and writhing in pain, his face and back bloodied.

A voice can be heard asking, “Who sent you?”

Shubaki seems to only mutter “God is greatest” – an expression used in everyday speech, particularly at moments of distress or pain. A man in civilian clothing then rolls Shubaki onto his back and searches his pockets as he is asked for his ID.

Israeli soldiers keep their guns trained on the youth, but provide no first aid. The video shows medics attending to another person, presumably the soldier injured in the alleged attack, who was eventually transferred to hospital in Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Authority health ministry told Quds that the teen died because he was left to bleed to death, and that his life could have been saved.

Another Palestinian youth, 16-year-old Ibrahim Abdulhalim Daoud, from the village of Deir Ghassan, died from his injuries on Wednesday, two weeks after he was shot in the heart during confrontations with Israeli forces in Ramallah.

DCI recorded the killing of two additional Palestinian children this month.

Sadiq Ziad Gharbiya, 16, was slain by Israeli forces at a checkpoint near the West Bank town of Abu Dis after he allegedly attempted to stab a soldier on 10 November.

Ahmad Abu al-Rab, also 16, was killed and 17-year-old Mahmoud Kamil wounded on 2 November, when Israeli soldiers opened fire at the boys at the Jalameh checkpoint in the northern West Bank, in what the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights described as a “crime of excessive use of force.”

An eyewitness told DCI that the youths had walked toward a Palestinian gas station near the checkpoint in the middle of the night and asked to use the toilets. They were approached by five Israeli soldiers, who searched them at gunpoint.

“One of the soldiers grabbed Ahmad by the neck, when the others found a pocketknife with his friend. Ahmad managed to get away and took out his pocketknife, at which point that soldier fired at his legs,” the rights group stated.

“The witness said that several military jeeps then arrived at the scene and ordered him to vacate the area. When he left, he saw Ahmad was still alive, on his knees, and surrounded by soldiers,” DCI added.

Children’s bodies held by Israel

Ahmad Abu al-Rab is among nine children, including the three killed this week, whose bodies are still being held by Israel.

“Beyond the punitive nature of the action, it has made verifying the details and circumstances of the incidents more difficult,” DCI said of this practice.

Meanwhile, the Israeli parliament gave preliminary approval to a bill sponsored by Anat Berko of Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party that would allow Palestinian children under the age of 14 to be sentenced to prison for terrorism charges.

“If the bill becomes law, children under 14 would reportedly be placed in a children’s home until they turn 14, after which the child would be transferred to a mainstream security prison,” Ma’an News Agency reported.

“If passed, the law would only affect children who are citizens of Israel, as Israeli military law already allows for children from the occupied West Bank and Gaza to be placed in security prisons from the age of 12,” Ma’an added.

The Electronic Intifada reported earlier this month that “Israel has arrested so many Palestinian children since the start of October that it has opened a new detention center specifically for them.”

Human rights lawyers said that children are being held in appalling conditions and are subjected to strip-searches at the Givon prison in Ramle, a town in present-day Israel.

The Fourth Geneva Convention forbids an occupying power from transferring prisoners to its own territory.

According to the Palestinian rights group Addameer, Israel was holding 6,700 Palestinian political prisoners in October, including 320 children.

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