Israeli border police have issued a shocking threat to Palestinians in Aida refugee camp, saying, “We will gas you until you die,” in an apparent response to stone-throwing.
In a one-minute video of the incident recorded on Thursday by a resident of the West Bank camp, an Israeli border officer speaking in Arabic reads the chilling message over a loudspeaker as an Israeli jeep rolls slowly down the street.
“People of Aida refugee camp, we are the occupation forces. You throw stones, and we will hit you with gas until you all die. The children, the youth, the old people – you will all die. We won’t leave any of you alive,” the unidentified officer says.
Such an announcement is remarkable in its stated contempt for human life, as well as raising a multitude of grave concerns as to the adherence of Israeli forces to central tenets of international law.
“We have arrested one of you. He is with us now. We took him from his home, and we will slaughter and kill him while you watch if you keep throwing stones,” the officer continues, referring to a 25-year-old Palestinian who was arrested on Thursday and subsequently released.
“Go home or we will gas you until you die. Your families, your children, everyone – we will kill you.”
The video was recorded after Israeli forces raided the camp during a protest against the occupation and fired tear gas, reportedly in response to Palestinian youths hurling stones at Israel’s separation wall.
According to a report in The Times of Israel, the border officer who made the threat has since been suspended.
Camp resident Mohammed al-Azza said the incident unfolded at dusk on Thursday, noting an Israeli jeep shot tear gas towards residents’ homes before making the announcement via loudspeaker.
“Everyone in the camp is talking about it,” Azza told Al Jazeera. “Especially the families who have children, and older people. They are afraid because [last year] a woman died from tear gas. They believe the Israeli occupation forces will do it.”
Azza noted that it was unusual for the Israelis to refer to themselves as the “occupation forces”, rather than a more traditional term, such as “defence forces”.
“This was something new,” he said. “I was sad and happy at the same time because I heard for the first time the [Israelis] saying they were the occupation, and this is good for countries outside to hear. [But] I was angry to hear them threaten to use tear gas and kill the people; there wasn’t any reason.”
Contacted by Al Jazeera, a spokesperson for the Israeli army declined to comment, noting: “The video in question is under the jurisdiction of the Israeli Border Police.” Israeli police directed inquiries to spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld, who could not be reached for comment.
The Badil Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights has condemned the latest developments, calling the officer’s announcement from the jeep “a clear and grave threat to collectively punish the population of Aida camp by way of lethal force”.
“Such an announcement is remarkable in its stated contempt for human life, as well as raising a multitude of grave concerns as to the adherence of Israeli forces to central tenets of international law,” Badil noted in a statement, citing a clear threat to kill Palestinians by way of extrajudicial executions, which would breach the Geneva Conventions.
Badil has called for an independent investigation into the incident, which comes amid escalating violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
A recent string of stabbings and shootings has killed 70 Palestinians and nine Israelis. Among the victims was 13-year-old Abdel Rahman Abdullah, a Palestinian who was hit by Israeli fire inside the Aida camp, which is located near the occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem.
“[The Israeli officer’s statement] is a barbaric affront to all objective moral and legal standards – a statement intended and serving to terrorize an occupied civilian population,” Badil said. “Such threats and the crimes to which these threats allude are the natural result of a growing culture of impunity which exists within the Israeli military.”
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