Report: Israel using excessive force against Palestinians

Amnesty International says Israel’s methods are often a willful intent to harm when not appropriate

Israeli soldiers scuffle with a Palestinian protester during a demonstration in the West Bank city of Hebron, Feb. 21, 2014.

Israel has killed dozens of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank over the past three years, showing a "callous disregard for human life," according to a report by Amnesty International released Wednesday.

The report, titled “Trigger-happy: Israel's Use of Excessive Force in the West Bank,” documents the killing of 45 Palestinians and wounding of thousands "who did not appear to be posing a direct and immediate threat to life.”

The report describes a “harrowing pattern of unlawful killings and unwarranted injuries of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces in the West Bank.” The international rights group accuses Israel of "war crimes and other serious violations of international law" against Palestinians.

Since occupying the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza in 1967, "Israeli authorities have signally failed to carry out independent investigations that meet international standards into alleged crimes," the report stated.

It said that in no cases reviewed did the Palestinians appear to be posing any imminent threat to life.

"In some, there is evidence that they were victims of willful killings, which would amount to war crimes," the group said.

The report calls on Israel "to open independent, impartial, transparent and prompt investigations into all reports of Palestinian civilians killed or seriously injured by the actions of Israeli forces.”

It also urges the United States, European Union and the rest of the international community to "suspend all transfers of munitions, weapons and other equipment to Israel" to pressure it to comply with international standards of human rights.

After a three-year hiatus, Israelis and Palestinians resumed direct peace talks last July, which the Palestinians hope will give them an independent state on territory seized by Israel in 1967.

The Israeli army, responding to the Amnesty report, said in a statement: "Where feasible the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) contains this life threatening violence using riot dispersal means … Only once these tools have been exhausted and human life and safety remains under threat, is the use of precision munition authorized."

The Israeli military said Amnesty failed to take into account "the substantial increase in Palestinian violence initiated over the past year," which "saw a sharp increase in rock hurling incidents, gravely jeopardizing the lives of civilians and military personnel.”

"During that year alone, 132 Israelis were injured, almost double the previous year," it said. "Over 5,000 incidents of rock hurling took place. In 2013 there were 66 further terror attacks which included shootings, the planting of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) ... and the abduction and murder of a soldier."

Yigal Palmor, Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Amnesty authored its report "without even bothering to ask for response and comment" until the eve of publication. "Their trick is to disable our capacity to respond," he said in an email to Agence France-Presse.

"And that's what this move is about," he added. "Not to get responses, but to deprive Israel of its capacity to even take part in the conversation."

Al Jazeera and wire services

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