B’tselem: Israel killed 290 Palestinians in 2018, most of them innocents
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B’tselem: Israel killed 290 Palestinians in 2018, most of them innocents

NGO claims only 90 of 254 killed in Gaza took part in violence; IDF has no comment; Israeli officials say they seek to prevent civilian deaths, accuse Hamas of using human shields

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

A Palestinian demonstrator uses a slingshot to throw stones towards Israeli forces during a protest on November 16, 2018, on the eastern outskirts of Gaza City, near the border with Israel. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
A Palestinian demonstrator uses a slingshot to throw stones towards Israeli forces during a protest on November 16, 2018, on the eastern outskirts of Gaza City, near the border with Israel. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Israeli security forces killed 290 Palestinians in 2018, the majority of whom did not “take part in hostilities,” B’tselem, an Israeli human rights group, said Thursday.

In a brief report, the group said that Israeli troops killed 254 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, including two women and 47 minors; 34 in the West Bank and East Jerusalem; and two in Israel.

In the coastal enclave, it said 149 of those killed did not “take part in hostilities,” while 90 did. The report added that B’tselem was unable to determine whether the remaining 15 of those killed in Gaza “took part in hostilities or not.”

An IDF spokesman did not respond to a request for comment about B’tselem’s findings.

Israeli security officials maintain that they only employ force when absolutely necessary and take exhaustive precautions and pains to prevent Palestinian civilian deaths. At times, however, they have admitted to making mistakes, resulting in Palestinian civilian deaths.

Security officials also hold that terrorist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad use Palestinian civilians as human shields to protect themselves and their military assets.

B’tselem said it collected the data on the Palestinians killed by troops last year through eyewitness accounts, official documents and photographs and video footage. It also said it cross-checked its information with the reports and statements of Palestinian and international human rights groups, the IDF, Palestinians terrorist groups and news articles.

Israeli soldiers conduct raids in West Bank village of Kobar on December 31, 2018, in search of Palestinian terrorist who committed deadly shooting attack outside the Givat Assaf outpost earlier in the month. (Israel Defense Forces)

Since late March 2018, Palestinians in Gaza have taken part in weekly Friday protests, which have included violent acts such as the lobbing of rocks and firebombs at Israeli security forces, in the border region between Israel and the coastal enclave.

The B’tselem report said Israeli forces killed 190 Palestinian participants in the protests, most of whom “were unarmed and posed no danger to anyone.”

Since the commencement of the protests, Israeli forces have shot dead many Palestinians who approached the fence separating Israel and the Strip.

Israeli security officials have repeatedly called on Palestinians in Gaza to stay away from the border fence.

Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of the fatalities were its members, including 50 of what it said were 62 fatalities in two days of protests last May surrounding the US opening of its embassy in Jerusalem.

The report also accused Israel of carrying out a “reckless” open-fire policy.

“These incidents are a direct result of Israel’s reckless open-fire policy, authorized by the government and the top military command, and backed by the judicial system,” it said. “As long as Israel adheres to this policy, despite its predictable outcomes, the casualties will continue to amass.”

The report added Israeli forces killed 13 Palestinians in the West Bank during and after protests or incidents involving stone-throwing.

It said that Israeli troops killed 11 Palestinians in the West Bank while they were “attacking, attempting to attack, or allegedly attempting to attack Israeli security forces or civilians – by ramming cars into them, stabbing, use of other cold arms or shooting.”

The report also asserted that Israeli forces shot dead three Palestinians in the West Bank who were erroneously accused of attempting to carry out ramming attacks.

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