Israel detains 10-year-old Palestinian as rights groups slam "shoot-to-kill" policy

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Israeli forces, including soldiers disguised as Palestinians, violently arrest a Palestinian child in occupied Jerusalem on October 24, 2014. Anadolu / Salih Zeki Fazlıoğlu

Published Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Israeli forces detained a 10-year-old Palestinian boy in the Silwan neighborhood on Monday evening, a local information center said, as human rights groups accused Israel of encouraging a "shoot-to-kill" policy among its security forces.

Meanwhile, Israeli settlers continued to attack Palestinians and their properties as Israeli authorities pressed on with their demolition policy.

Majdi Abbasi of the Wadi Hilweh information center told Ma'an news agency that Israeli forces in the Ein al-Luza area of the neighborhood detained 10-year-old Rachid Abu Sarah, took off his shirt, blindfolded him, and took him away in a military jeep. He did not have further information about the boy's arrest.

Israeli forces also fired stun grenades in the neighborhood, Abbasi said.

Unrest has gripped Jerusalem and the West Bank on an almost daily basis for the past four months, flaring up after a group of Zionist settlers kidnapped and burned a young Palestinian to death because of his ethnicity.

At least 600 Palestinian children have been arrested in annexed Jerusalem alone since last June.

According to a report published Friday by the Palestinian Prisoners Club (PPC), nearly 40 percent of these children have been subjected to sexual abuse during arrest or investigation by the Israeli authorities.

The PPC, an independent Palestinian organization set up in 1993, said the "daily arrest campaigns" inflicted on young Palestinians living in Jerusalem are a "collective punishment against Palestinian residents of Jerusalem."

PPC attorney Mufeed al-Haj said that other violations were reported during the apprehension of children, including but not limited to night and predawn raids on family homes, physical and sexual abuse.

Forces often ignore laws and arrest Palestinians without warrant.

In another report last week, the Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) said Israeli occupation forces have arrested at least 380 Palestinians in raids across the West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem in 20 days.

More than 6,500 Palestinians, including 300 minors, are currently behind bars.

Around 95 percent of detained children were subject to beatings and torture by Israeli security personnel while in detention, while many were forced to make confessions under duress and undergo unfair trials, said Issa Qaraqe, the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) committee on detainees.

A report by Defense for Children International (DCI) published in May 2014 revealed that Israel jails 20 percent of Palestinian children it detains in solitary confinement.

DCI said that minors held in solitary confinement spent an average of 10 days in isolation. The longest period of confinement documented in a single case was 29 days in 2012, and 28 days in 2013.

A report by The Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights, Israeli forces arrested nearly 3,000 Palestinian children from the beginning of 2010 to mid-2014, the majority of them between the ages of 12 and 15 years old.

The report also documented dozens of video recorded testimonies of children arrested during the first months of 2014, pointing out that 75 percent of the detained children are subjected to physical torture and 25 percent faced military trials.

In 2013, the UN children's fund (UNICEF) reported that Israel was the only country in the world where children were "systematically tried" in military courts and gave evidence of practices it said were "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment."

During the month of November, Israeli forces detained at least four Palestinian children, aged 13 to 16, for allegedly throwing stones at Israeli cars, and attempted to detain two Palestinian children, a two-year-old and a nine-year old, on suspicion of throwing stones.

The Israeli cabinet approved early November a new legislation which will be added to the Israeli penal code and would allow the imposition of a prison sentence up to 20 years for those convicted of throwing stones or other objects at Israeli vehicles.

Shoot-to-kill policy

Meanwhile, human rights groups have accused Israel of encouraging a shoot-to-kill policy after a wave of incidents in which police shot dead Palestinians involved in, or accused of, attacking Israelis.

The alleged practice of killing suspects without trying to arrest them has caused concern after a series of deadly Palestinian attacks also resulted in the perpetrators' deaths – and not always at the scene.

In a rare move, a Jerusalem court on Sunday indicted a border police officer after he shot and killed a Palestinian during a May demonstration in the occupied West Bank.

For some, the charge of manslaughter in the case was not strong enough, and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch's comments that "a terrorist who strikes civilians should be killed" seem to indicate that other similar investigations are unlikely to take place.

"Aharonovitch's statement and its application on the ground show that the authorities simply want these incidents to end ­– with the terrorist killed at the scene rather than brought into the justice system," Carolina Landsmann wrote in Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Israeli rights group B'Tselem says that one of the first victims of "extrajudicial executions" was Abdel-Rahman Shaludi, a 21-year-old Palestinian from annexed East Jerusalem who rammed his car into Israeli settlers on October 22. He was killed at the scene by police.

Earlier this month, police shot dead 22-year-old 1948 Palestinian Kheir Hamdan during a routine arrest, claiming he attacked them with a knife.

However, CCTV footage showed him banging on the outside of a police van before turning away, as a police officer got out and shot him in the back.

Last week, two Palestinians stormed a synagogue with meat cleavers and a gun, killing four Zionist rabbis and a policeman. They were also shot dead at the scene by police.

None were brought to trial, and the suspects' families face the likelihood of having their homes demolished in a punitive measure adopted by the Israeli authorities.

Police claim the killings of suspects were “lawful and in self-defense.”

"According to the law... when the danger is real, immediate and threatens the life of a police officer or innocent people, he can shoot," spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP.
"It's kill or be killed."

But Amnesty International told AFP it had "strong suspicions" about Israeli forces adopting a policy of "deliberate killings.”

Even aside from the latest deadly attacks, the number of shootings of Palestinians by soldiers in the occupied West Bank has risen, Amnesty's Saleh Hijazi said.

"In dealing with the Palestinians, (police and soldiers) use excessive force," he said.

Rights groups say Aharonovitch's remarks have been instrumental in formulating attitudes in the field, particularly those he made to reporters on November 5 at the scene of the second hit-and-run attack in Jerusalem in a fortnight.

"The action of the border police officer who chased the terrorist and quickly killed him is the right and professional action, and that is the way I would like these incidents to end," he said.

Three days later, Hamdan was shot dead in what many saw as the minister's words being put into action.

B'Tselem said it was "extremely disturbed" by Aharonovitch's comments, which it described as "provocative" and encouraging "execution without trial."

Rights group Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said in a statement the expectation that "police officers will act as jury, judge and executioner, is improper and unacceptable."

According to Haaretz's Landsmann, Israel is also keen to avoid another prisoner swap deal in which it would have to free Palestinians convicted of killing Israelis – as in 2011 when it released more than 1,000 prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit, a soldier held by Hamas militants for more than five years.

"The best way to avoid releasing prisoners is not to arrest them to begin with," she wrote.

Settler violence

In addition to growing violence practiced by Israeli soldiers, anti-Palestinian attacks by Israeli settlers have also been on the rise.

A group of settlers assaulted a young Palestinian man near the illegal Israeli settlement of French Hill late on Monday, the man told Ma'an.

Mahmoud Ubeid, 19, said he was walking home from work when a car pulled over and one of the five Israelis in the car asked him for a lighter.

"When I said I didn't have a lighter, the settler stepped out of the car and pushed me before the other four stepped out and attacked me," Ubeid said, adding that the attackers were carrying knives and rods.

Ubeid was taken to al-Maqasid hospital for treatment.

Earlier on Monday evening, Israeli media reported Monday that a 45-year-old Israeli settler arrived at a police station in Jerusalem's Old City with stab wounds to his abdomen, claiming he had been attacked by "Arabs."

The incidents come a day after three Israeli settlers assaulted a Palestinian in annexed East Jerusalem and an Israeli woman broke into a Palestinian home in the Jerusalem Silwan neighborhood and attacked a Palestinian woman with pepper spray while she was sleeping.

Hate crimes by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and their property, referred to as “price tag” attacks, are endemic and Israeli authorities rarely intervene in the violent attacks or prosecute the perpetrators.

A report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that there were at least 399 incidents of settler violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank in 2013.

Israeli authorities have allowed Zionist settlers to take over homes in Palestinian neighborhoods both in annexed East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and announced plans to build thousands of settlements strictly for Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem while ignoring Palestinian residents.

Last month, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah slammed Israel for failing to hold Zionist settlers accountable for a recent wave of violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

"The Israeli government has never brought settlers to account for the terrorism and intimidation they commit [against Palestinians]," Hamdallah said.

More than 600,000 Israeli settlers, soaring from 189,000 in 1989, live in settlements across the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.

Demolition policy

Meanwhile, clashes erupted in the neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukabbir in Jerusalem on Monday when Israeli forces raided the homes of Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal.

The Abu Jamal cousins, from Jabal al-Mukabbir, were shot dead Tuesday after they attacked a synagogue with meat cleavers and a pistol, killing four rabbis and an Israeli policeman.

The families of Ghassan and Udayy said that Israeli forces smashed the front doors and took measurements of the two houses from inside and outside. The Israeli authorities delivered the families military demolition orders on Thursday. A lawyer for the Addameer group filed an appeal to the Israeli prosecution on Sunday.

Clashes then erupted near the suspects’ homes, whose bodies are still in Israeli custody, with soldiers heavily firing tear-gas bombs and sponge bullets.

Human Rights Watch called on Israel Saturday to stop razing the homes of Palestinians accused of attacking Israelis, saying the practice can constitute a “war crime.”

"Israel should impose an immediate moratorium on its policy of demolishing the family homes of Palestinians suspected of carrying out attacks on Israelis," the New York-based group said, as the fate of three houses slated for demolition awaits a court ruling.

"The policy, which Israeli officials claim is a deterrent, deliberately and unlawfully punishes people not accused of any wrongdoing. When carried out in occupied territory, including East Jerusalem, it amounts to collective punishment, a war crime."

In addition to the Abu Jamal family, the East Jerusalem families of Mutaz Hijazi and Ibrahim al-Akkari, killed by police after two separate attacks, have also been served demolition orders on their homes.

Home demolitions have long been used as a deterrent punishment in the occupied West Bank, but this is the first time they have been adopted as a matter of policy in occupied East Jerusalem.

The practice has been condemned by human rights watchdogs and the international community as collective punishment that targets the families of perpetrators rather than the assailants themselves.

Last Sunday, Israeli rights group B'Tselem said that punitive house demolitions are "fundamentally wrong" and contravene "basic moral standards by punishing people for the misdeeds of others."

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in 2013, Israel demolished more than 500 Palestinian homes in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem.

Moreover, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions estimates that Israeli authorities have demolished about 27,000 Palestinian structures in the West Bank since 1967.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Zionist state – a move never recognized by the international community.

(Al-Akhbar, Ma'an)

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