Israel’s government is facing serious questions over its use of force in the latest outbreak of violence with protesters after a number of videos appeared online showing soldiers shooting at Palestinians.
Amnesty International told Al Jazeera on Sunday that some of the recorded incidents amounted to “extrajudicial killings”, while Human Rights Watch was “strongly concerned” by Israel’s “indiscriminate and even deliberate” use of fire on demonstrators.
“These are extrajudicial killings against unarmed civilians,” Mariam Farah, the spokesperson for Amnesty International in Israel, said.
On Friday, a video emerged showing a number of Israeli soldiers surrounding a young Palestinian woman allegedly holding a knife before they shot her with live bullets multiple times. Israa Ayed, 29, was critically injured.
Palestinian teenager Fadi Alloun was shot and killed last week. He was running away after he allegedly tried to stab an Israeli. His family denies he tried to hurt anyone.
“There is no proof whatsoever that Israa was holding a knife. The same goes for Alloun. They did not appear to have posed enough threat to the soldiers to use deliberate lethal force [on them],” Amnesty’s Farah told Al Jazeera.
Since the beginning of the latest wave of violence in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, 23 Palestinians were killed and 1,991 injured by Israeli security forces, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
On the Israeli side, four Israelis were stabbed to death by Palestinians, while 63 others were injured.
‘Violating international law’
Human Rights Watch told Al Jazeera the sheer number of cases of injuries among the Palestinians “raises concerns that Israeli forces are violating international law”.
The US-based organisation said one of its staff members was injured by Israeli fire on Tuesday while she was observing a demonstration near a checkpoint outside Ramallah.
“The demonstration at that time was peaceful. There was no apparent threat to Israeli soldiers or anybody else frankly,” Sari Bashi, the Israel-Palestine Director of Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera.
“We have very strong concerns about excessive use of force and very strong concerns about the indiscriminate and even deliberate fire on crowds of demonstrators,” she said.
But a professor from the Hebrew University has told Al Jazeera that “live fire is used by Israeli army only if there is a life-threatening situation”.
“And firebombs and stabbings [by Palestinians] are life threatening situations. These are deliberate attempts to harm civilians,” said Robbie Sabel, a professor of international law and a former legal adviser to Israel’s foreign ministry.
On September 22, a young Palestinian woman died of her wounds after being shot by Israeli troops at a checkpoint in the West Bank.
The Israeli army said that 19-year-old Hadeel Salah al-Hashlamon attempted to stab a soldier, who in turn fired live ammunition at her “lower extremities”.
But a video emerged later showing that al-Hashlamon was shot several times, including in the chest, and raised questions over whether she was actually armed with a knife.
Amnesty International said the death of al-Hashlamon was one in “a long line of unlawful killings carried out by the Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank with near total impunity”.
The recent violence has been triggered by recent visits by Jewish groups, including politicians, to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem, one of Islam’s holiest sites.
Palestinians fear that Israeli hard-liners are trying to take control of the site.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted Israel is committed to maintaining the status-quo and has banned his ministers from visiting the site.
Under the current arrangements, Jews are allowed to visit the site, but non-Muslim prayer is banned.