24 Apr, 2018
Disturbing footage from the West Bank published by an Israeli human rights group shows IDF soldiers discussing how to improve land shots on unarmed Palestinian protesters and cheering as they hit them with rubber bullets.
The video shows three Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers standing on a road that leads to a Palestinian settlement and firing at a group of Palestinians, who gathered meters away. The soldiers are also seen routinely discussing the best ways to fire at people.
“It is far, still too far. Wait for them to come nearer,” one soldier is heard telling the other when preparing to fire a shot. They also discourage each other from shooting from a longer distance, as it would apparently scare the protesters off.
“We need one good hit and that is it. That will teach them not to throw stones,” one soldier says at some point. The same soldier is heard saying in the video that the stones, which were apparently being thrown by the Palestinians, did not even reach the soldiers’ position. The men are also shown to be reacting with excitement after one of them apparently hits a protester with a rubber bullet.
Disturbingly, one of the soldiers then remarks: “One live bullet and the whole thing will be over,” to which the other one replies that they “do not need live fire.” The former then complains that one cannot effectively shoot a person with a rubber bullet.
According to the description of the video, which was published on YouTube by the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (B’Tselem), the incident took place in the Palestinian village of Madama, located to the south-east of the city of Nablus, in the West Bank on April 13.
The Israeli military placed a roadblock at the eastern entrance to the village. When the Palestinians attempted to remove the roadblock in a protest move, a total of 11 Israeli soldiers arrived. At some point, the Palestinians started hurling stones at the soldiers. It is, however, unclear if the soldiers started firing in response to the protesters’ actions or before the Palestinians began throwing stones.
A total of seven Palestinians were injured in the incident. Two of them were taken to a hospital in Nablus for medical treatment, while others were treated on the spot.
The video was published just days after a retired Israeli general defended the IDF practice of opening live fire on unarmed protesters in Gaza in a controversial interview. Zvika Fogel, the former chief of staff of IDF’s Southern Command, which controls the 65 kilometer (40 mile) border with Gaza, said that anyone who gets close to the border fence between Israel and Gaza automatically poses a potential security threat, and could thus be considered a legitimate target, even if it is a child.
Fogel also dismissed any criticism by calling the lives of the Palestinians, who, during the protests, were allegedly killed by accident, an unfortunate “price that we have to pay to preserve the safety and quality of life of the residents of the State of Israel.”
Earlier, a 15-year-old Gaza boy, Mohammed Ayoub, was killed by the IDF during protests in Gaza. A local cameraman, who captured the shot, Abdul Hakim Abu Riyash, told RT that the teenager was nowhere near the fence and was not carrying any sort of weapon.
Israel’s controversial practices have long provoked criticism from international organizations and human rights groups. In early April, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Israel to ensure that security forces do not use excessive force against Palestinian protesters. Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International slammed what they called “calculated” killings and the use of deadly force against unarmed protesters, including children.
In its response to RT’s request for comment, the IDF hailed the “professional manner” in which the Israeli forces acted as they were dispersing the protest with tear gas and rubber bullets, but admitted that “some of the contents of the video do not portray the type of behavior expected from IDF soldiers.” The IDF stated it would revise the “relevant procedures” within the forces.