The European Union on Wednesday criticized Israel’s use of lethal force for crowd control against protesting Palestinians and urged security forces to show restraint as well as to investigate every fatality.
In a statement, the Office of the European Union Representative to the West Bank and Gaza Strip said several Palestinian minors have been killed in recent months, but did not provide details of the incidents.
“The EU continues to be deeply alarmed about the use of live ammunition by Israeli Security Forces as a means of crowd control,” the statement said. “The EU reiterates its calls on Israeli authorities to employ proportionate force in their response to demonstrations, to exercise the utmost restraint in its use of force for law enforcement, to open adequate investigations following each fatality and to initiate prosecution where appropriate.”
Although the statement referred to the West Bank, it came after recent deadly clashes on Israel’s boundary with the Gaza Strip where tens of thousands of protesters had massed in a Hamas-backed demonstration.
The IDF has defended its riot dispersal procedures, saying it employs a range of nonlethal crowd control methods and only resorts to live fire when the safety of its soldiers is threatened.
The EU also raised its concerns over the arrest and detention of Palestinian minors, including Ahed Tamimi, now 17, who last month agreed to an eight-month plea deal after a video went viral in December showing her slapping an Israeli soldier on her family’s property in the West Bank.
“Israel has obligations under international law to respect the rights of the child, which inter alia confirm that the arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate time,” the statement said.
Speaking of Tamimi, the EU said expressed “deep concern regarding the circumstances of her arrest, the duration and the conditions of the detention and how the proceedings were conducted in her specific case as well as in other similar cases processed in the military court system.”
Tamimi, 16 at the time of the incident, has been hailed as a hero by Palestinians who see her as bravely standing up to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
Israelis accuse her family of using Tamimi as a pawn in staged provocations.
Tamimi’s sentence includes time served and a fine of NIS 5,000 ($1,430). She is to be released in the summer.
On Friday, over 30,000 Palestinians demonstrated along the Gaza border, in what Israel describes as a riot orchestrated by the Hamas terrorist group, which rules Gaza, and what Palestinians say was supposed to be a peaceful protest. According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, 16 Palestinian were killed in the clashes and over 1,000 injured. There were far smaller protests in the West Bank.
IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said on Saturday that all those killed were engaged in violence. Manelis said on Friday evening that the army had faced “a violent, terrorist demonstration at six points” along the fence. He said the IDF used “pinpoint fire” wherever there were attempts to breach or damage the security fence.
The IDF on Saturday named and detailed 10 of the dead as members of terror groups including Hamas. Hamas, an Islamist terror group that avowedly seeks to destroy Israel, had earlier acknowledged five of them were its members. Islamic Jihad later claimed an 11th.
AFP contributed to this report.