Israel has killed dozens of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank over the past three years showing a “callous disregard for human life,” a report by Amnesty International says.
The report, released on Wednesday and entitled Trigger-happy: Israel’s Use of Excessive Force in the West Bank, documents the killing of 45 Palestinians and wounding of thousands “who did not appear to be posing a direct and immediate threat to life”.
It “shows a harrowing pattern of unlawful killings and unwarranted injuries of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces in the West Bank”.
The rights group accuses Israel of “war crimes and other serious violations of international law” against Palestinians.
Since occupying the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza in 1967, “Israeli authorities have signally failed to carry out independent investigations that meet international standards into alleged crimes,” the London-based Amnesty said.
It said that in none of the cases it reviewed did the Palestinians appear to be posing any imminent threat to life.
“In some, there is evidence that they were victims of wilful killings, which would amount to war crimes,” the group said.
The report calls on Israel “to open independent, impartial, transparent and prompt investigations into all reports of Palestinian civilians killed or seriously injured by the actions of Israeli forces”.
It also urges the US, EU and the rest of the international community to “suspend all transfers of munitions, weapons and other equipment to Israel” to pressure it to change.
After a three-year hiatus, Israelis and Palestinians resumed direct peace talks last July, which the Palestinians hope will give them an independent state on territory seized by Israel in the 1967 war, including the West Bank.
In its response, Israel said Amnesty International did not take into account the increasing number of attacks on its forces in the past year or seek comment until the eve of publication.
An Israeli army statement said: “Where feasible the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) contains this life threatening violence using riot dispersal means… Only once these tools have been exhausted and human life and safety remains under threat, is the use of precision munition authorised.”
The Israeli military said Amnesty failed to take into account “the substantial increase in Palestinian violence initiated over the past year,” which “saw a sharp increase in rock hurling incidents, gravely jeopardising the lives of civilians and military personnel”.
“During that year alone, 132 Israelis were injured, almost double the previous year,” it said.
“Over 5,000 incidents of rock hurling took place.
“In 2013 there were 66 further terror attacks which included shootings, the planting of IEDs [improvised explosive devices] … and the abduction and murder of a soldier.”
Yigal Palmor, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Amnesty authored its report “without even bothering to ask for response and comment” until the eve of publication.
“Their trick is to disable our capacity to respond,” he said in an email to AFP.
“And that’s what this move is about: not to get responses, but to deprive Israel of its capacity to even take part in the conversation.”
However, Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa programme at Amnesty International, said: “The report presents a body of evidence that shows a harrowing pattern of unlawful killings and unwarranted injuries of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces in the West Bank.”