An Israeli human rights watchdog released a report Monday that found serious problems with the crowd control methods employed by Israeli security forces, some of which have led to deaths.
The B’Tselem findings, published on Monday, concluded that Israel Defense Forces safety regulations for opening fire are “ambiguous and in some cases can’t be followed.”
The report also claimed that practically no action is taken even when there are systematic violations of those regulations.
“Investigations are rare and are usually closed without accountability,” the report summarized.
The IDF responded that since B’Tselem does not know what the open-fire regulations are, the conclusion that they are unclear is baseless.
“The incidents presented in the report concerning the use of crowd dispersal methods are in most cases not relevant or up to date, and the unusual events that the organization points to are not a reflection on routine army work,” the IDF said. “The open-fire regulations that the IDF uses are formulated by operational authorities in full consultation with legal authorities.”
According to B’Tselem, since 2005 10 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank by supposedly nonlethal crowd control methods. Six were killed by rubber-coated metal bullets, two after being hit by propelled tear-gas grenades, and two by rubber pellets.
Another 45 were killed by live fire during over the time period, the group reported.
The IDF noted that the regulations were clearly defined and that personnel who operate crowd-dispersal methods receive special training in their use.
The investigation focused on the primary methods used by the Israel Defense Forces for crowd control including the use of rubber-coated metal bullets, tear-gas grenades fired from launchers, 40-millimeter teargas rounds fired from launchers slung under soldiers’ rifles, rubber pellets, and the Skunk, a water-cannon truck that squirts a foul-smelling liquid.
B’Tselem demanded that the IDF prohibit the use of live ammunition except when facing mortal danger, restrict the use of rubber-coated bullets to instances of mortal danger when they should be used as a preliminary to live ammunition, and enforce a complete ban on the firing of 40-millimeter teargas grenades directly at people under any circumstances.
The report also found that soldiers and Border Police deliberately have fired teargas canisters toward demonstrators, or were careless with their aim, which is against regulations. Likewise, rubber bullets were often fired at close range where they could be lethal, or at minors or passersby who were not participating in demonstrations, B’Tselem said.
The report went on to claim live ammunition was fired at stone-throwers even when there was no mortal threat, and live 0.22 caliber ammunition, considered to be nonlethal, was used for crowd control. In addition, the Skunk was used directly against or near houses, suggesting it was used to mete out collective punishments.
B’Tselem also argued that by preventing demonstrations from being held, Israel was curtailing freedom of speech.