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Live ammunition and child arrests: Israel’s military response to protests

Jessica Purkiss

December 25, 2012

In condemnation of the recent murder of 17 year old Mohammad Ziad Awad Salaymah, protests have broken out in Aida refugee camp broke out the following day.

The teenager was shot dead on Wednesday, December 12th, by an Israeli border officer at a checkpoint in Hebron. According to Israeli sources Salaymah pulled a pistol out at the officers, which later turned out to be fake. This version of events is contested, with some claiming he failed to heed orders at the checkpoint due to hearing issues.

This is the third Palestinian death in Hebron this month as a result of clashes with Israeli soldiers, signaling a dangerous trigger-happy trend in the wake of November’s military offensive in Gaza.

Orders to use live ammunition

Israeli Interior Minister Elie Yishai and head of the Kadima opposition party, Shaul Mofaz, demanded that soldiers should be permitted to use maximum force against threats from Palestinians, including live ammunition, at a meeting of the Ministerial Council.

Israel’s Channel 7 reported that a senior Israeli military commander in the West Bank said "a soldier 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, ad that based on his personal evaluation, he can resort to the use of live ammunition."

Following Wednesday’s tragic incident, protests erupted in the Old City of Hebron. Palestinians took to the streets on Thursday morning, where they were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition. One teenager was shot in the chest with a live bullet, whilst 21 protestors sustained injuries from rubber bullets.

Emergency services spokesperson Nasser Kabbaj said during Thursday’s December 13th clashes that 26 Palestinians were taken to the Hebron government hospital whilst 12 were sent to a medical clinic. A further 51 Palestinians were treated at the scene.

Aida refugee camp, which lies north of Bethlehem and is directly next to the Apartheid Wall, also demonstrated against the Israeli army protesting Salaymah’s killing, with scores of Palestinians sustaining injuries.

According to residents there, Aida Camp is the center of resistance action in the surrounding area; when a protest takes place people flock from other refugee camps to demonstrate in Aida.

Since Thursday and up to Monday, the residents of the town have been protesting against the teenager’s death, and have been met with a similar reception to those in Hebron. One refugee worker has claimed that 25 people were injured by rubber bullets during the 5-day protest. The Beit Jala Governmental Hospital received ten patients to be treated for rubber bullet injuries and/or tear gas inhalation.

The fate of stone-throwing children

On Thursday afternoon, Israeli soldiers detained two children in Aida during the demonstrations: Hilmy al-Qaisi, 15 and Motasem al-Amir, 12.

The court hearing of Al-Qaisi was pushed back to Monday 24th December. According to one source this is the third time the session has been postponed due to the defendant refusing to confess. He is held under charges of throwing stones, having a slingshot and a Molotov.

According to Addameer, the prisoner support and human rights group, approximately 700 children under the age of 18 are prosecuted through Israeli Military Courts in the West Bank each year. Since the year 2000, more than 8000 Palestinian children have been detained. The most common charge brought against children is that of throwing stones, which under military law carries a potential sentence of 20 years.

Under Military Order 1644, which established a separate military court for Palestinian children, children as young as twelve were tried in the same military courts as adults.

The discrepancy between the treatment of Palestinian children under military law and the domestic juvenile justice system in place for Israeli children violates international law despite Israel having ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991.

Unacceptable responses to protests from Israeli military

The recent events in Aida are demonstrative of the unnecessary response of the Israeli military in dealing with protestors.
Demonstrations are the only accessible way for everyday Palestinian citizens to show their objection to events that affect their daily lives, and one of the few forms of resistance they can use against the strength of Israel.

The tactics used by the military to disperse these protests have led to countless injuries, and many unacceptable deaths. The village of Bil’in has seen both a brother and sister die during their weekly Friday protests.

Jawaher Abu Rahmah died of tear gas inhalation on New Year’s Day in 2011, whilst her brother, Bassam Abu Rahmah, was killed in 2009 from the impact of a fired high-velocity tear gas canister hitting his chest.

The use of any bullets, particularly any orders to use lives ammunition is an unacceptable approach, as is the unjust detention of children under Israeli military law. Since Monday there remains a heavy Palestinian Authority police presence within the camp hoping to quell the protests.


:: Article nr. 93809 sent on 27-dec-2012 04:18 ECT


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