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HomeWorldIsrael suspected of war crime in West Bank boy's death

Israel suspected of war crime in West Bank boy’s death

  1. Israeli soldiers shoot Palestinian youths, sparking UN war crime concerns
  2. Evidence reveals alleged IDF abuses in occupied West Bank
  3. Concerns over IDF culture potentially fueling Palestinian resistance

On November 29th, in the occupied West Bank, in the early afternoon, a group of Palestinian youths descended upon their street, where they frequently engaged in recreational activities.

Moments later, two of them—Adam, eight, and Basil, fifteen—were found deceased at the hands of Israeli soldiers who had discharged gunfire.

An investigation into the behavior of Israel’s security forces in the West Bank, which has been under military occupation for over fifty years, pieced together the events of the day the two boys were murdered.

Serious human rights violations are suggested by a combination of mobile phone and CCTV footage, information regarding the movements of Israel’s military, witness testimonies, and a thorough investigation of the scene, which includes the taking of measurements.

Ben Saul, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, has stated that Adam’s murder seems to constitute a “war crime” in light of the evidence we have uncovered.

An additional legal scholar, Dr. Lawrence Hill-Cawthorne, termed “indiscriminate” the application of deadly force.

The circumstances surrounding the deaths are “under review,” according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). However, “live fire is only used to eliminate immediate threats or for arrest purposes, in accordance with established protocols, after all other options have been exhausted.”

The West Bank has experienced an increase in violence since October 7, when Hamas launched an attack from Gaza against Israel.

Basil is seen on video footage from November 29 standing next to a hardware store whose shutters are securely closed. In contrast to Gaza, which is governed by Hamas, shops in Jenin, a city in the West Bank, close abruptly when the Israeli military approaches.

According to eyewitness accounts, gunfire emanated from a nearby Israeli military operation in the Jenin refugee camp.

Adam, an enormous Lionel Messi and football aficionado, was accompanied by his 14-year-old older sibling Baha. A total of nine lads were observed on the street, and their whereabouts were captured in near-360-degree video by CCTV cameras.

A convoy of at least six armored Israeli military vehicles rounded a corner and started in the direction of the lads, who were visibly uneasy, a distance of a few hundred meters. A number of the lads began to disperse.

Mobile phone footage captures the front entrance of an armored vehicle opening at this precise moment. The boys were in plain view of the soldier who was inside. Basil had darted into the middle of the road, whereas Adam was fleeing the soldiers 12 meters further away.

At least eleven firearms were then heard.

The projectiles struck a large area. Four projectiles penetrated a metal pole, two struck the hardware store’s shutter, one penetrated a parked car’s bumper, and another perforated a handrail.

Adam, age eight, was struck in the back of the head once more as he fled; his older brother Baha frantically attempted to pull him to safety while he screamed for an ambulance, leaving a trail of blood.

Nonetheless, it was past the hour. Baha stated that Adam and his companion Basil perished before him.

I was so overcome with shock that I failed to reflect on my own thoughts.” I made an effort to communicate with him. I began to exclaim, “Adam, Adam!” “However, his soul was essentially departing from his body in disbelief”.

Before receiving his injection, Basil is observed holding an object in his hand. What it is is not explicitly stated. The IDF subsequently released an image captured at the location, claiming to depict an explosive device.

Several neutral organizations and individuals, including human rights attorneys, a war crimes investigator, and a counter-terrorism expert, were provided with evidence derived from our investigation of the site. Certain individuals anonymously provided their evaluations.

Although the experts all concurred that an investigation into the incident was warranted, some went so far as to assert that international law appeared to have been violated.

Ben Saul, the special rapporteur of the United Nations for human rights and counter-terrorism, stated that legality may have been called into question regarding the use of lethal force in Basil’s case, given that he had an explosive.

Mr. Saul stated that this behavior by Adam seems to contravene the prohibitions of International Humanitarian Law regarding the intentional, indiscriminate, or disproportionate targeting of civilians. Furthermore, it violates the human right to life and constitutes a war crime.

Co-director of the Centre for International Law at the University of Bristol, Dr. Lawrence Hill-Cawthorne, remarked, “The personnel was mounted in armored vehicles. Despite the potential danger, they ought to have retreated and devised an arrest strategy in advance, as opposed to resorting to ostensibly arbitrary, lethal force in contravention of international law.

According to the IDF, the suspects were on the verge of hurling explosives at their forces, thereby exposing them to imminent danger. “The troops returned fire, and the hits were confirmed,” the Israeli military reported.

However, based on the video evidence and witness statements that we have reviewed, Adam was shot in the back of the head while attempting to flee and he did not appear to be armed.

The IDF stated that the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Basil and Adam are “under review,” as it does routinely for any minor fatality in the West Bank attributable to IDF activity.

However, several former Israeli soldiers expressed the belief that Israel’s legal system would afford protection to soldiers who employed lethal force, irrespective of its justification.

According to a former sergeant who served in the West Bank between 2018 and 2020, the act of a Palestinian being murdered at zero range by an Israeli soldier would be considered homicide in Israel, and the likelihood of criminal proceedings being initiated against a soldier in situations similar to Adam’s is virtually non-existent.

Based on data provided by the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din, the proportion of prosecutions resulting from complaints lodged against Israeli soldiers is less than 1%.

The footage that circulated during the October 7 Hamas attack, which resulted in the deaths of approximately 1,200 individuals and the capture of 253 others, infuriated the Israeli populace and stunned the international community. Subsequently, the global community has been preoccupied with the conflict and humanitarian emergency in Gaza, where, according to the health ministry operated by Hamas, over 34,000 individuals have lost their lives.

Concurrently, Israel’s military operations in the occupied West Bank have intensified, rendering the previous year the deadliest on record for minors in that region.

According to Unicef, 124 children were murdered in 2023, 85 of whom were reported to have been slain after October 7th.

36 Palestinian minors have been killed by Israeli settlers or the military on Palestinian territory so far in 2024.

By the West Bank not being designated as a war zone, international law intends to impose greater limitations on the use of force.

Although the precise regulations governing Israeli military operations remain classified, former and current Israeli soldiers have informed us that the employment of lethal force should only occur in extreme circumstances involving an imminent and tangible threat to human life. A phased strategy ought to be implemented.

It is stated that the process commences with a verbal admonishment in Hebrew and Arabic, progressing to the application of non-lethal weapons like tear gas, then leg shots, and finally lethal fire.

The Palestinian Authority-run health ministry in the West Bank provided with access to medical reports about 112 children, ranging in age from two to seventeen, who lost their lives to Israeli fire from January 2023 to January 2024. The precise circumstances surrounding each of these shootings remain unknown, thus raising the possibility that certain incidents did endanger the lives of Israeli soldiers.

However, our analysis revealed that approximately 98% of them sustained upper body injuries, where a fatal shot is more probable; therefore, soldiers may be firing with the intent to kill rather than inflict wounds.

It calls into question whether or not soldiers in the West Bank are abiding by the rules of engagement and the prevailing culture regarding the use of lethal force.

During our five-week investigation into the effects of military operations in the West Bank, we observed indications of several incidents that prompted grave concerns regarding the behavior of the army.

Subsequently, several Palestinians informed us that they had been coerced into Jordan by soldiers who had threatened them with gunfire. The IDF has stated that it will investigate any complaints regarding the endangerment of civilians.

Haytham, a 12-year-old Canadian-Palestinian child, claimed that an Israeli soldier threatened him with a knife; his brother and father corroborated this account.

Allegedly by Israeli soldiers, a mural depicting the al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, had been defaced in one family residence in the camp.

Spray-painted on an adjacent wall was the Star of David, while “7 October” was inscribed in Hebrew, serving as a reference to the Hamas assault.

This vandalism, according to the IDF, “contradicts IDF values” and goes against the organization’s expectations of its soldiers.

The home’s upper level was in shambles, with kitchen cabinetry shattered, children’s toys broken, and televisions malfunctioning. It was the same scene in each dwelling, spanning the entire compound.

Vandalism is unquestionably illegal, according to Dr. Eitan Diamond, a senior legal expert at the Diakonia International Humanitarian Law Centre in Jerusalem. This includes actions such as spray-painting the Star of David or ‘October 7’ on walls.

He added that the reports of a minor in the Tulkarm camp being threatened with a knife and others being threatened with gunfire may also constitute violations of international law.

Witnesses informed us that an alleged Palestinian fighter who was possibly carrying explosives was shot and killed by IDF forces during the same operation. His remains were subsequently urinated on, struck, shackled, and dragged down the street.

Upon examining the bloodstained scene, we discovered cable and cloth that were consistent with the material depicted in the photographs as having been used to bind the body.

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Once more, our evidence was presented to impartial experts. Prof. Marco Sassoli, an expert in international law from the University of Geneva, stated: “Even if the departed were lawfully executed, their remains must be respected. The information provided is in breach of international humanitarian law and potentially qualifies as a war crime.

Explosives were discovered upon examination of the deceased fighter, according to the IDF, and Red Crescent personnel declined to touch the body. As a result, IDF personnel were compelled to restrain his hands and feet to safeguard their well-being and ascertain whether the body concealed any weapons.

Several former Israeli soldiers who examined the evidence expressed concerns that the culture of IDF operations in the West Bank could inadvertently encourage Palestinian armed resistance.

One individual stated that it is, at best, naive and dehumanizing to presume that non-combatants will seize arms despite daily interactions with the army in the same manner as the Palestinians and that life will continue as if nothing has happened.

Things continue to deteriorate.

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