By: Khaled Tayeh
RAMALLAH, Wednesday, August 17, 2022 (WAFA) – In the span of less than 25 hours, two shooting incidents took place in two areas in the occupied West Bank. In both incidents, the shooters were Israeli soldiers and the assumed targets were Palestinians. The Israeli government policy says: Shoot to kill first and ask questions later, if the target is, of course, a Palestinian. But sometimes the target could be mistaken to be a Palestinian.
Early on Monday, Mohammad Ibrahim Shaham, 21, was shot in the head at close range by a special Israeli army force immediately after breaking into his family home in Kufr Aqab neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem. The soldiers, according to Shaham’s family, opened fire at Mohammad immediately after breaking down the door without him posing any threat to them. He was left bleeding for 40 minutes, without allowing anyone to come to his aid, before he was taken away by the soldiers. Shaham died several hours later while in army custody.
The soldiers admitted to the family that they came to the wrong house and killed the wrong person.
The soldiers who broke into the Shaham’s third-floor apartment told the family that they had come to the wrong house and killed the wrong person. “They started shooting immediately after blowing up the door of the house and killed Mohammad right away without warning and without even checking his identity,” said Mohammad’s mother.
A few hours later, an Israeli soldier was shot dead near the occupied West Bank city of Tulkarm by gunfire from another Israeli soldier who mistakenly thought he was a Palestinian.
The Israeli army opened an investigation into the second incident, since the dead person involved was a fellow soldier, but not into the first incident, since the dead person was a Palestinian, even though both were killed by mistake.
Israel’s direct targeting of Palestinians is neither new to Palestinians nor shocking to them anymore. For example, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, passed a law known as “The Nakba Law”, which basically authorizes targeting Palestinians who commemorate the Nakba (the Catastrophe, which refers to the displacement of some 800,000 Palestinians during and following the 1948 war and the establishment of the state of Israel).
For many years, human rights organizations have accused Israel of practicing a “shoot-to-kill” policy against Palestinians; a policy that would leave hundreds of Palestinians across the occupied West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza Strip killed on the spot at checkpoints, streets and areas nearby illegal Israeli settlements.
Four years ago, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected two petitions filed by human rights groups (Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and another by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Yesh Din, Gisha - Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, and HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual) and fully adopted the Israeli military’s position, giving a green light to its continued use of snipers and live fire against Palestinian protesters involved in the March of Return protests held at the Gaza Strip border fence with Israel.
Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara argued in the petition that the Israeli military practices constitute violations of both international law as well as Israeli law.
The Israeli military’s “open-fire policy against protesters in Gaza is patently illegal… This policy perceives the [Palestinian] human body as an expendable, worthless object," she said in the petition.
In December 2021, Israeli media reported that the Israeli military has officially been allowed to shoot at Palestinians who throw rocks or Molotov cocktails, even if they no longer present an immediate threat whatsoever.
According to The Times of Israel, “if Israeli soldiers see a Palestinian person throwing a rock or firebomb at cars, they are permitted to go through the arrest protocol in its entirety, including the use of deadly force if necessary, even if, by that stage in the process, the suspects no longer have firebombs or rocks in their hands.”
The Palestinian Authority slammed the Israeli instructions to shoot at Palestinians and considered them a “green light to commit more field executions against Palestinians according to the soldiers’ whims, moods, and assessments.”
It also said, through a statement released by The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, that such instructions are “a blatant disregard to international law, international humanitarian law and human rights principles and an insult to the lives of citizens,” adding that they aim to “sow fear and terror” among Palestinian youths and “to break their will to confront settlements and settlers.”
While the Israeli military has recently been permitted to use that policy, the practice in itself is not entirely new as there have been numerous cases of Palestinians getting shot dead at the scene by Israeli forces even if they did not actually pose any kind of threat.
Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called out the Israeli aggression on Palestinians everywhere, saying that Israeli practices a shoot-to-kill policy against Palestinian people.
“The occupation forces continue to terrorize and kill innocent Palestinians. Today they murdered in cold blood Ghada Sabateen, a widow and mother of 6 children from Husan village in Bethlehem. The international community must hold Israel accountable for this heinous crime; protect our people.”
Sabateen, a 47-year-old mother of six children from the Bethlehem area village of Husan, was shot in cold blood by an Israeli soldier on April 10 in her village despite the fact that she was unarmed and did not pose any threat to the soldier.