Since the publication of Amnesty International’s damning report on IDF practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Israel has responded by ramping up its killing of Palestinians. Entitled Trigger Happy: Israel’s Use of Excessive Force in the West Bank, the report thoroughly documents the IDF’s violations of international human rights law, and calls on the international community to cease shipments of weapons and cooperation until Israel complies with international law.
Israel denied the validity of Amnesty International’s report. According to The National: “Israel’s military said Amnesty failed to mention ‘the substantial increase in Palestinian violence initiated over the past year’ that included ‘a sharp increase in rock-hurling incidents, gravely jeapordising the lives of civilians and military personnel.'”
Hours later “IDF sources later told the Jerusalem Post that 2014 so far has been characterized by similar incidents of disturbances and rock-throwing that marked the previous year. The trend is continuing. We’re not seeing anything that’s very unusual.”
These contradictory statements highlight the IDF’s defiant attitude in the face of thoroughly documented abuses, and confidence in the inability of the international community to prosecute war crimes.
The day the Amnesty report was released, the IDF assassinated Mutaz Washaha in an unusually grotesque and brutal display of military power, which I reported on here. The following day, Israeli soldiers shot and killed Amna Qdaih, a 50 year old mentally ill woman in the Gaza Strip.
Last week, the IDF killed six Palestinians over a 24 hour period.
Saji Darwish, a twenty old student of Bir Zeit University, was shot in the head while feeding his goats outside his home. The IDF claimed he was throwing rocks at settler vehicles before he was killed. The villagers claim he was not. According to Rajai Abukhalil, the physician who examined Darwish’s body, Saji was shot twice in the head from two different angles.
Raed Ala’ Ed-Deen Z’eitar, a Jordanian judge, was shot to death at the Allenby bridge crossing. He was traveling to his hometown of Nablus in order to visit his five-year-old son who was hospitalized in critical condition after swallowing something. The IDF claimed Z’eitar attacked a soldier. Witnesses claim he was assaulted by soldiers and shot when he attempted to stand up after being thrown to the ground. Hours after the IDF declared Z’eitar to be a terrorist, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to the Jordanian government and people, and announced the establishment of a joint Israeli-Jordanian team to investigate the killing.
Fidaa Muhye Addin Majadlah was killed in Tulkarem when he attempted to flee in his vehicle from Israeli soldiers last Tuesday morning. The passenger, Ibrahim Adnan Shukri, was reported to have sustained moderate to severe injuries.
In the Gaza Strip, three Palestinians were killed by an Israeli airstrike. They have been identified as Ismail Abu Judah, 23, Shahir Abu Shanab, 24, and Abd al-Shafi Muammar, 33. The al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad movement, said “They were in confrontation with the occupation trying to stop the progress of Israeli military vehicles which were approaching the area.” The IDF claimed “terrorists affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the southern Gaza Strip fired a mortar shell at IDF forces.”
In retaliation for Israel’s killings, Islamic Jihad launched at least 130 rockets into Israel. In response, Israel launched at least 29 air strikes on Gaza. Neither side reported any injuries. In Petah Tikva, a Palestinian man stabbed an Israeli. The victim was reported to be in moderate condition. The Jerusalem Post reported that the attack was in retaliation for the assassination of Mutaz Washaha.
Israeli officials portrayed the latest violence as initiated by Palestinian rocket attacks. Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted “If there won’t be quiet in the South, there will be noise in Gaza, and this is an understatement.” Israeli President Shimon Peres said “The people of Gaza have to choose — it’s either peace or violence.”
US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said last Wednesday afternoon in a statement: “The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s rocket attacks into Israel by terrorists from the Gaza Strip. It is reprehensible that dozens of rockets have been fired today alone. There is no justification for such attacks. We call for these terrorist attacks to cease immediately. Israel, like any nation, has a right to defend itself.”
Psaki withheld such condemnation for Israel’s recent killings. During a press briefing on Tuesday, When asked about Israel’s killing of six Palestinians in a 24 hour period, Psaki dismissed the question saying “they all have different circumstances,” and “I would caution anyone against linking everything in – to one group.” When asked about Israel attacking Gaza in the context of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ upcoming visit to Washington, Psaki replied “We certainly encourage both sides to continue to take steps that are conducive to a peace process.”
The State Department’s refusal to condemn Israel’ unprovoked killings of Palestinians, while using the strongest terms possible to criticize Palestinian reactions, effectively stamps American approval on the latest Israeli-initiated cycle of violence. Indeed, during Israel’s murderous 24 hours, the Israeli and American militaries held a joint training exercise, ignoring Amnesty International’s calls for American military cooperation with Israel to cease. While Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets with President Obama, the events of the last week demonstrate the firm Israeli-allied position of the United States.