Palestinians anguished as Israel rebuffs US call for West Bank tactics review
Palestinians have expressed deep concern after Israel signaled opposition to US calls to review rules of engagement in the occupied West Bank.
Eighty-two Palestinians have lost their lives in the West Bank since the beginning of this year.
The US State Department said on Tuesday that Washington will urge Israel to review rules of engagement practices after its military concluded that Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was likely shot unintentionally by an Israeli soldier.
The Palestinians have accused Israel of deliberately targeting Abu Akleh, who was killed on May 11 while covering an Israeli raid in the Palestinian militant stronghold city Jenin. Israel denies this.
“No one will dictate our rules of engagement to us, when we are the ones fighting for our lives,” Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said at a military ceremony in Haifa.
The Israel Defense Forces deployed thousands of troops in the West Bank in April in an attempt to arrest wanted Palestinians.
The IDF operates a battalion in the West Bank called the Netzach Yehuda Brigade, made up of Haredi settlers and which has been accused of abusing Palestinians.
The US has asked Israel for more information about the nature of the battalion, after an 80-year-old Palestinian-American was killed near Ramallah in January.
Israel’s operation in the area has weakened the 33,000-strong Palestinian security services in the West Bank, who withdraw from the streets during IDF incursions.
Maj. Gen. Akram Rajoub, governor of Jenin city, told Arab News that changing the Israeli rules of engagement may reduce the number of casualties.
He said more than 30 Palestinians from Jenin and its surrounding towns were killed by the IDF since the beginning of the year, in addition to dozens of injured and arrested.
Rajoub said most of those killed did not participate in any violent activity and were not armed. Some of them may have thrown stones or photographed incursions with their mobiles when they were killed, he added.
“The use of excessive force against the Palestinians has a negative effect; it pushes the families and relatives of the victims to think of revenge,” Rajoub said.
Maj. Gen. Younis Al-Asi, a specialist in infantry and the governor of Tubas in the northern West Bank, told Arab News that the IDF must use non-lethal ammunition, such as rubber bullets and tear gas, and use force gradually.
“The Israeli army’s use of excessive force against the Palestinians contributes to creating violence among the Palestinians, then the Israelis dress it up as terrorism,” he said. “When a soldier kills the brother or son of a Palestinian citizen, what do you expect him to do except think of revenge?”
Al-Asi said Israeli soldiers aim at heads and chest areas while shooting in order to neutralize targets.
“Two days ago, the Israeli armed forces invaded Jenin with more than 100 armoured vehicles and more than 1,000 soldiers; none of the intruders was injured, so why are they shooting to kill our sons?”
Retired Maj. Gen. Adnan Dameri, former spokesman for the Palestinian Authority security services, told Arab News that the reckless killing of Palestinians was because of the culture Israeli soldiers grow up in rather than the military instructions they receive.
“The Israeli soldier shoots the Palestinians because his leadership told him that the Palestinians are enemies who want to kill the Israeli troops. He is reassured that he will not be held accountable for killing Palestinians,” said Dameri,
Retired Maj. Gen. Wassef Erekat, another expert, told Arab News that the Israeli leadership desires to break the will of the Palestinian resistance, under the principle that “what is not subject to force will be subject to more force. The combat instructions given to senior Israeli commanders produce lenient rules of fire that enable Israeli soldiers to shoot without restrictions.”
Erekat accused the Israeli government of trying to shed maximum Palestinian blood in order to win the Nov. 1 Israeli elections.
The absence of accountability for soldiers, as in the case of the shooting of Abu Akleh, encourages them to disregard the lives of Palestinians, he said.