The Israel Defense Forces is reportedly conducting investigations into nearly two dozen deaths of Palestinians shot by soldiers or security forces in unclear circumstances since the ongoing wave of violence and terrorism erupted last October.
The military advocate general ordered an inquiry into the deaths of every Palestinian in the West Bank who “wasn’t involved in combat activity,” the Haaretz daily reported on Thursday. There was no official confirmation of the report.
According to the paper, over 20 incidents are being probed by military officials, who are gathering evidence and eyewitness testimonies from local human rights organizations and other soldiers at the scene.
Since the wave of lone-wolf stabbing and shooting attacks by Palestinians began last year, 35 Israelis and four foreign nationals have been killed in Palestinian stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks. At least 214 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces in the same period, some two-thirds of them while carrying out attacks against Israelis, and the rest during clashes with troops, mostly in the West Bank, the IDF says.
Palestinians have called for Israel to be investigated for carrying out what it claims are “extrajudicial executions,” and a handful of incidents — some admitted by the army to have been accidental — have sparked outrage and debate over the IDF’s rules of engagement.
According to Haaretz, one of the incidents currently under investigation is the death of a 15-year-old Palestinian boy who was fatally shot last month outside the West Bank city of Ramallah by Israeli soldiers who mistook him for a stone-thrower.
Mahmoud Rafat Badran’s family said their son was on his way home from a water park on June 22 when soldiers opened fire on the car in which he was traveling, killing him and wounding four of his teenage cousins. An initial IDF probe into the shooting indicated that Badran and the others were shot by mistake.
The army is also probing the death of Abd al-Rahman Abdallah, a 13-year-old Palestinian teen who — the army has previously admitted — was accidentally shot by soldiers attempting to disperse a violent riot in a Bethlehem-area refugee camp last year. At the time, IDF officials reportedly said that soldiers had aimed at an adult man standing near Allah, but missed and hit the boy by mistake.
Israeli investigations into soldiers, security forces, or police accused of wrongfully shooting Palestinians rarely result in arrests or criminal charges.
In recent years, the only case of a soldier indicted for opening fire on Palestinians is Sgt. Elor Azaria, an IDF sergeant who was caught on film shooting a disarmed Palestinian assailant in the head earlier this year.
On March 24, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif and another Palestinian man attacked a soldier and an officer near the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron with a knife. Al-Sharif was shot, wounded and disarmed by troops at the checkpoint. Some 15 minutes later, Azaria arrived on the scene, and fatally shot the incapacitated al-Sharif as he lay on the ground.
Azaria, who has maintained that he shot al-Sharif out of fears he was wearing an explosive vest that could be used to harm the first responders and other soldiers on the scene, is on trial for manslaughter.