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27 Feb, 2014 14:48

​Some Israeli killings of Palestinian civilians in West Bank may be war crimes – Amnesty

Israeli forces have killed dozens of Palestinian civilians, including children, over the last three years, and with almost complete impunity, according to the latest Amnesty International report.

Some of the killings were unnecessary and willful, which may qualify them as war crimes.

The report called “Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank” reveals the unnecessary and brutal killings, as well as human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The Palestinians killed by Israelis didn’t present an immediate or direct threat to the soldiers’ lives – in all cases studied by Amnesty since 2011, the human rights group’s website stated. In a few incidents, the killings were apparently willful, which would amount to war crimes.

Several victims were shot in the back, allegedly trying to flee and posing no danger to the Israeli military forces, others were stone-throwing demonstrators attacked by lethal means.

"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," Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Amnesty International, said.

In the latest incident Thursday, Israeli forces opened fire and killed a Palestinian man they were seeking to arrest in the occupied West Bank, after he barricaded himself inside his house, Reuters reported. An eyewitness told the news agency that no shots were heard from inside the home before the Israeli forces opened fire.

Despite many incidents having happened a few years ago, the findings of the investigations haven’t been disclosed.

The Amnesty officials are sure that those are not separate incidents, but Israeli government policy.

“The frequency and persistence of arbitrary and abusive force against peaceful protesters in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers and police officers – and the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators – suggests that it is carried out as a matter of policy,” Luther said.

Amnesty has also called for “conduct prompt, thorough and independent investigations into all suspected instances of arbitrary and abusive use of force” as for now the Israeli system is “neither independent nor impartial” and “completely lacks transparency.”

The Israeli army dismissed the allegations, saying security forces had seen a "substantial increase" in Palestinian violence and that Amnesty had revealed a "complete lack of understanding" about the difficulties soldiers faced, Haaretz reported.

A total of 22 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank over the last year, at least 14 of them during rallies. Most of those murdered were young adults under 25, and at least four were children. Among those killed are peaceful protesters, civilian bystanders, human rights activists and journalists, Amnesty reported.

More Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in 2013 than the total number killed in 2011 and 2012 combined, according to UN data.

Apart from the killings, at least 261 Palestinians, including 67 children, have been seriously injured by live ammunition fired by Israeli forces in the West Bank over the last three years.

Over 8,000 people, 1,500 of them children, have been wounded by other means, including rubber-coated metal bullets and the reckless use of tear gas.

Those numbers, Amnesty officials say, help to convey the deadly hazards West Bank Palestinians are constantly facing.

“The staggering numbers of wounded provide a sobering reminder of the relentless daily danger faced by Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank,” Luther said.