UN, Europe reprimand Israel for deadly use of live fire

After eight Palestinian civilians were killed by crowd control weapons, organizations urge Israel to exercise ‘maximum restraint’

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

An Israeli soldier firing a tear gas cannister during a demonstration in the West Bank in October 2012. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
An Israeli soldier firing a tear gas cannister during a demonstration in the West Bank in October 2012. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

The United Nations and the European Union rebuked the Israeli army Wednesday for the use of live fire to disperse demonstrations in the West Bank, and called for investigations into the increasing number of civilian casualties caused by crowd control weapons.

The two organizations issued separate statements two days after the publication of a report that chastised Israel for the “unlawful use” of crowd dispersal weapons and for failing to properly investigate casualties resulting from abuse.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator James Rawley said he was “seriously concerned by the increased casualties resulting from the use of live ammunition by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank.”

Eight Palestinian civilians, including three minors and one woman, have been killed since mid-November in separate incidents in the West Bank, Rawley said. He urged the IDF to exercise “maximum restraint” to avoid further civilian casualties. “Using live ammunition against civilians may constitute excessive use of force and any such occurrences should be investigated in a timely, thorough, independent and impartial manner. Individuals found responsible must be held accountable.”

The EU missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah likewise said they were “deeply concerned” by the number of West Bank Palestinians killed recently in separate incidents “involving recourse by Israeli forces to lethal force.”

“We reiterate the need for security forces, whether Israeli or Palestinian, to refrain from use of lethal force, except in cases where there is a real and imminent threat to life,” the statement read. The two EU missions further said they worry about “continuing incursions by Israeli forces” into the West Bank’s Area A, which is under the full control of the Palestinian Authority. IDF incursions into this area jeopardize “the internationally recognized success of Palestinian institution building efforts,” the statement concluded.

Both the UN and the EU recognized in their statements that the IDF has made efforts to investigate recent civilian deaths. While the UN’s Rawley said Israel had “reportedly” launched probes into “some of the incidents,” the EU missions acknowledged that the army opened investigations “into each case.” Israel’s commander of operations in the West Bank has ordered an immediate review of the rules of engagement, the EU statement reads.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor declined to comment on the two statements.

On Monday, Israeli human rights watchdog B’Tselem published a report examining the IDF’s use of crowd control weapons such as teargas, rubber-coated metal bullets, stun grenades, pepper spray, water cannon — and live fire. The group says that violating its own rules, Israeli security forces “sometimes fire live ammunition during demonstrations, particularly at Palestinians who are throwing stones at them.” At least 46 Palestinians have been killed when live ammunition was fired at unarmed stone-throwers over the past seven years, the report claims.

Israeli security personnel fire tear gas at Palestinian protesters, August, 2012. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Israeli security personnel fire teargas at Palestinian protesters, August 2012 (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

The B’Tselem report concludes that members of the security forces “make almost routine use of” these crowd control weapons “in unlawful, dangerous ways, and the relevant Israeli authorities do too little to prevent the recurrence of this conduct.”

The IDF submitted a detailed seven-page response to B’Tselem’s allegations, included in the report. “When dealing with illegal and violent disruptions of the public order, the IDF exerts tremendous effort in trying to minimize harm done to rock hurlers, rioters or other disrupters of public order and safety,” the responds argues. B’Tselem’s conclusions rest on “faulty factual and normative foundations,” a spokesperson said.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed