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Thousands in Gaza plan int'l protest: It's impossible to live here

A group of young activists in Gaza are organizing an international day of solidarity to protest against the impossible conditions and human rights violations created by Israel’s and Egypt’s siege, the occupation, internal Palestinian conflicts and poverty.

By Yael Marom

“Life in Gaza has always been hard. But after Israel’s last attack it became impossible to live here. The problems became worse and the conditions deteriorated to the point that it is no longer possible to live humanely — and nobody cares,” Sajida Alhaj, 21, says in a Skype interview.

Alhaj is part of a group of young activists in Gaza that last month published a call for a mass protest in the Strip on April 29, demanding an end to the siege, the occupation and the human and civil rights abuses that accompany them.

The activists are calling on anyone who believes in freedom, justice and equality, the world over, to join them and organize parallel protests in their own countries, to express solidarity and to recognize their suffering.

“The situation in Gaza is disastrous,” she says. “We are calling on people to support Gaza by demonstrating in front of the Israeli and Egyptian embassies in every country, and force them to open the borders and break the siege — let building materials in to allow rebuilding, and let sick people out for medical treatment.”

Alhaj is a student and Palestinian refugee who lives in the central Gaza Nusirat Camp. In the past, the activist group she is a part of has mostly worked with women, children and the wounded in Gaza. Now, they are trying to unite the entire Strip.


“This action is our answer to the siege under which we live,” she explains. There are more and more human rights violations each year, and there is no sign that anything is getting better, she adds.

When you walk down the street, she explains, you see one house standing and one house in rubble, one after another, on and on. In order to reach her university every morning, Alhaj says she must “walk between homes damaged in the war, to walk through places where people were killed.”

“And all that to reach my damaged university...

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Israeli army encloses 7,000 Palestinians in West Bank village

IDF openly tells the 7,000 residents of Hizma that they are being collectively punished for the stone-throwing of a few Palestinians.

By Natasha Roth

The Israeli army and Border Police closed off both entrances to the Palestinian village of Hizma in the West Bank on Monday afternoon, in response to what the military claimed were incidents of stone-throwing in the area. Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem reported that Hizma’s 7,000 residents were also prevented from leaving the village. A sign in Arabic was posted next to one of the barriers, reading:

The barriers were removed at midnight on Monday, but were replaced by spikes the following morning. The entrances were finally opened on Wednesday.

According to B’Tselem, Hizma — near the East Jerusalem settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev — has been closed off before after stone-throwing. However, this is the first time that residents have been told they are being collectively punished.

Collective punishment, illegal under international law, is a regular feature of life for Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The poster calling for Hizma’s residents to inform on their neighbors is also reminiscent of the security establishment’s policy of coercing West Bank Palestinians to turn to collaboration. Such a move is intended to sow discord by placing the responsibility for the closure on the heads of a few.

But perhaps the most telling moment came from an exchange between a bus driver from Hizma and an Israeli Border Police officer during the two-day blockade. Upon seeing two Jewish Israelis enter the village, do their shopping and leave again, the driver asked the officer why he could not do the same. The reply: “Because they’re Jewish. You’re not. That’s why.”

Thanks to Tamar Fleishman for additional reporting on this story.

Natasha Roth, a British immigrant to Israel, is a freelance writer and researcher, and a former coordinator at the ARDC. She can be found on twitter at @NatashaRoth01.

Hundreds of Palestinians protest collective punishment in E. J’lem
The hard fact is that Israeli repression works
Rights groups to top court: Home demolitions are collective punishment

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High Court on BDS: Somewhere between terror and Holocaust denial

The High Court decision on the ‘boycott law’ uses the word terror 11 times, likens BDS supporters to Holocaust deniers and quotes a right-wing columnist who makes it his duty to target boycott supporters.

By Yael Marom

The justices of Israel’s High Court upheld the controversial “boycott law” Wednesday, giving ground for individuals to sue anyone who calls for a boycott of Israel, or areas under its control (read: the occupied territories).

But beyond the consequences, questions and political issues that arise from the ruling, there are also a few gems that would be a shame to miss. The word “terror” is mentioned 11 times in the entire verdict. Justice Rubenstein says the word “Holocaust” three times, while the High Court makes two references to the book “Industry of Lies,” by conservative Yedioth Ahronoth columnist Ben-Dror Yemini (known for his articles against the boycott movement, and for attacking leftists for positions they often do not hold). Because the decision is 233 pages long, I decided to pick out the best parts for the readers.


“Thus the call for boycott falls into the category that is known in constitutional literature: the democratic paradox, which allows for limiting the rights of those who seek to enjoy the fruits of democracy in order to harm it. Calling for boycott and participating in it, therefore, can sometimes be considered ‘political terror.’”
(Justice Meltzer, pg. 37)

Holocaust deniers

“Even the boycott against Israel, in its old form, which Israel — as well as other countries, headed by the United States — worked to combat, falls within the realm of freedom of speech; it would be terrible for this freedom of speech to reach its goals. It may be akin to — without comparing — Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic and racist remarks, which in my eyes must enjoy the protection of free speech.”
(Justice Rubinstein, pg. 164)


“These lines are written on the eve of Passover. In the Passover Hagadah, we read about the same promise made from above to ensure the survival of the Jewish people, despite its enemies — ‘And this is what kept our fathers and what keeps us surviving. For, not only one arose and tried to destroy us, rather in every generation they try to destroy us, and God saves us from their hands.’ There is no problem with the fact that the Knesset passes a law...

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Why the Lausanne deal protects both Israel and Iran

Israelis don’t seem to understand that the Lausanne agreement will allow them to maintain nuclear ambiguity, while providing Iran with a last-ditch survival strategy to protect itself from a military strike. 

By Shemuel Meir

The framework agreement between Iran and the P5+1 reached in Lausanne came down on Israeli decision-makers and analysts like a lightning bolt on a sunny day. They were expecting failure in the talks and an anemic press release. Instead, the agreement was announced and detailed information was published about its significant technical parameters that will block Iran’s path to the bomb.

Don’t pay too much attention to reports in the Israeli media about an apparent gap between the U.S. parameters documents published and Iran’s statements. The Iranian declarations don’t contradict the Americans when it comes to the technical parameters. The difference of opinion relates to political and strategic issues — the timing and pace at which sanctions will be lifted.

This is not an agreement to temporarily delay Iran’s paths to weaponization, that will allow Iran to do develop nuclear weapons in 15 years if it pleases. It is an agreement with permanent supervision and verification mechanisms that will “fold back” and neutralize the dangerous components that could have been used for developing nuclear weapons. The agreement will end the ambiguity of Iran’s nuclear program and will ratify Iran’s status as “a non-nuclear weapon” state under the NPT. What follows is an analysis of the technical outlines of agreement, which is the best way to understand the Iranian story of the last decade.

The core of the heavy water reactor at Arak will be destroyed and and removed from Iran. All of the used nuclear fuel from a new core, which will produce small amounts of plutonium under international supervision, will be transferred out of Iran. There will be no plutonium separation facility. And therefore, it will no longer be possible to produce compact nuclear warheads that can be fitted on ballistic missiles.

Iran can enrich uranium only in one facility (5,000 first-generation, dated centrifuges from Natanz) to a civilian level of 3.6 percent, for making nuclear fuel for a power plant. The second centrifuge facility in Fordo (the underground facility), where in the past Iran enriched to 20 percent (the fastest way to reach military grade enrichment, or the highest level in Netanyahu’s UN diagram), will shut down and be converted to a research center with international...

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‘Price tag’ settler argues in court that revenge isn’t a crime

You would think that sentencing a group of Israelis for setting fire to a Palestinian cafe is a positive development. But a closer look shows that the culture of minimizing the seriousness of price tag attacks is alive and strong. 

By Natasha Roth

Were people’s lives and livelihoods not at stake, it would have been an almost sublime piece of parody. During the trial of four teenage Israeli settlers who set fire to a Palestinian-owned cafe in the West Bank town of Dura, which concluded on Monday, the defendants’ attorneys – as reported by Ynet – brought forth the claim that because the arson was an act of revenge, their clients were not guilty of breaking the law.

Let’s think about that for a moment. The arson was investigated by the Israel Police’s Nationalistic Crimes Unit in the Samaria and Judea (SJ) District. This body was set up as a response to settler violence, which frequently manifests as price tag attacks – i.e. acts of violent revenge by Israelis against Palestinians and their property.

This act of arson was indeed an act of revenge, against the setting alight of an entertainment complex in the Beit El settlement, a fact that the boys helpfully spelled out on a wall adjacent to the cafe they tried to burn down [Heb].

As one would expect, in court the prosecution highlighted the vengeful nature of the act, as well as the mortal risk it presented. At which point, the defense countered with its declaration that the boys were no criminals, but rather, “simply teens that had their hangout spot burned and decided to get revenge by burning a similar hangout spot in the village which the accused thought the original arsonists came from” (quoted in Ynet [Heb]).

Or in other words, the biblical admonition of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” was produced as a legitimate mitigating factor by the settlers’ attorney, something that would seem to undermine the entire raison d’être of the Nationalistic Crimes Unit. (The convicted arsonists’ lawyers mostly work for Honenu, a self-proclaimed “Israeli Zionist legal aid organization which offers legal assistance to [those] … in legal entanglements due to defending themselves against Arab aggression, or due to their love for Israel.” Honenu has a tendency to take on cases defending Jewish Israelis accused of aggression against Palestinians.)

Aside from the...

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We can no longer deny the Holocaust of Libya's Jews

I wanted to believe that my mother’s cries, who for years woke up in the middle of the night, crying in a mix of Arabic and Italian, were not heard by a single writer of Israeli history.

By Yossi Sucary

I wanted the believe that the Nazis’ bullets, which struck the heads of my mother’s 12 and 13-year-old cousins with frightening precision, accidentally missed the history books of the State of Israel.

I wanted to believe that my grandmother, who was taken from the blazing heat of the Sahara Desert, where she lived as a free and loving woman, on a three-year journey that ended in Bergen Belsen concentration camp in snowy Germany, could not be contained in the pages of history of the State of Israel, because her feet were simply too lazy to take her to the Education Ministry and tell the people there about it.

I wanted to believe that I learned, over and over again, about the 49 people who were murdered during the Kishinev pogrom of 1903, but I didn’t learn a thing about the thousands of Jews from Libya who were massacred by the Nazis in the Jado, Gharyan, Said al Aziz, Bergen Belsen and Birenbach Reiss concentration camps, all due to a silly mistake by a lowly clerk in the Education Ministry of the State of Israel.

I wanted to believe that my mother’s cries, who for years woke up crying in the middle of the night, in a mix of Arabic and Italian, fearing that the Germans were coming to take her, were not heard by a single writer of history, only because it was too soft, and it is her fault that she did not cry louder.

I wanted to believe that when Nachum Goldman, the President of the World Zionist Organization, rejected my aunt Saloma, who asked to receive reparations after her young son was shot at point-blank range by the Germans, he did so because he truly believed his own words: “You have never seen a German in your life, you have an Oriental imagination.”

In fact, I wanted to believe that Israel was not interested in erasing the history of part of its citizenry, but rather was interested in changing what was said about it. This is why I wrote my book “Benghazi—Bergen-Belsen” on black pages — the kind that the State cannot easily scribble on.

That is...

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WATCH: Israel demolishes homes in unrecognized Palestinian village

Bulldozers knocked down three buildings in the village Dahmash, just 20 minutes from Tel Aviv, contrary to a High Court ruling. 

By Rami Younis and Haggai Matar

Israeli bulldozers demolished three structures in the unrecognized Palestinian village Dahmash, near Lyd (Lod in Hebrew) on Wednesday morning. The demolition took place despite both a High Court decision that called for a mutual agreement and a demand by the Lod District Court that the State delay its demolition plans. The homes were uninhabited at the time of the demolition.

The demolition began at 4 a.m. and was accompanied by a large police force, which prevented residents from leaving their homes. When the demolition was over, Joint List members Ayman Odeh, Bassel Ghattas and Dov Khenin, as well as head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement Sheikh Raed Salah, came to the village in a show of solidarity with the residents.

The unrecognized village Dahmash is under the jurisdiction of the Emek Lod Regional Council, a mere 20 minute drive from Tel Aviv. The village has been around since 1948, and its residents even have proof of ownership in the Israel Land Registry. However, the State does not recognize their claim to the land, and does not provide the village with the necessary infrastructure or even the most basic services, such as sewage, roads, electricity, garbage collection or a post office. Over the past few years, the residents have been struggling against repeated home demolitions by coming up with their own master plan in order to gain recognition for their rights to live on their land.

“Just yesterday [Tuesday] the Lod District Court responded to our request to prevent the demolition, and called on the State to respond to our request within 48 hours, but the judge did not clearly state that she demands an injunction during this time,” said Sufyan Asaf, a resident of the village and an owner of one of the homes that was destroyed. “The police did not respect the court’s request and came to demolish the buildings before the court could even discuss our appeal against the demolition orders. On Tuesday we spoke with a police officer who promised that nothing would happen.”

“It must be noted that the demolition was done contrary to the High Court’s recommendation,” added MK Dov Khenin. “Due to the complexity regarding...

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When shooting a Palestinian in the back is merely 'reckless'

Why trust the military to investigate itself when soldiers who kill unarmed Palestinians are let off the hook time and time again?

By Alma Biblash

In January 2013, an Israeli soldier shot a 16-year-old Palestinian who posed absolutely no threat in his back. Samir Awad, from the village Budrus, didn’t survive the valiant military operation, and was killed. Last December, the High Court of Justice harshly criticized the Military Advocate General’s (MAG) handling of the case calling on it to finish its investigation.

On Tuesday, the State announced that it would charge the soldier reckless and negligent use of a firearm. Had the incident not ended with the death of a teenager, it could have come off as no more than a silly act of mischief.

Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, which accompanied the Awad family throughout the legal process, called the decision a “new low in Israeli authorities’ disregard for the lives of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. The State Attorney’s Office has sent security forces in the Occupied Territories a clear message: if you kill an unarmed Palestinian who poses no threat, we will do everything to cover it up and ensure impunity.” According to Yesh Din, an Israeli organization that provides legal assistance to Palestinians in the occupied territories that has researched this issue in the past few years, 97.8 percent of the Criminal Investigation Division’s (CID) investigations vis-a-vis harm caused to Palestinians have ended without indictments.

This situation persists even when incidents are documented from every possible angle, as was the case when Bassem Abu Rahmah was shot and killed during a nonviolent demonstration in Bil’in almost exactly five years ago. Abu Rahme’s case was also closed for lack of evidence.

So perhaps those who still put their faith in a military court system will be happy about the decision regarding Samir Awad, even if the decision to indict the soldier for “reckless and negligent use of a firearm,” borders on grotesque cynicism—a desecration of the honor of the deceased and his family.

A different, necessary conclusion could go as follows: the CID and the MAG have nothing to do with justice or good faith. Both Palestinian deaths and lives are entirely forsaken under Israel’s military rule. Even if they are children who pose no threat. Perhaps the time has come to stop relying on the internal mechanisms of the occupation...

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Supreme Court gives al-Araqib the right to fight for its land

As far as the state was concerned, not only do the indigenous people of the Negev have no right to land, they didn’t even have the right to argue in court that they do. The Supreme Court rejects that position.

By Michal Rotem

For years, the battleground of the Negev Bedouin in Israel has existed on multiple fronts. The legal front, which is mostly hidden from the public, is one of the more important but most difficult fronts. Due to a complex web of laws designed to declare Bedouin land as state land, there have been far more losses than victories on the legal front.

That is one reason why the Israeli Supreme Court’s decision on Sunday is so encouraging. The court rejected the state’s argument, instead permitting a hearing in which the residents of al-Araqib can challenge the expropriation of their land in the 1950s. Israel has demolished the unrecognized village over 70 times in recent years.

It is only a small victory because it does not rule on ownership of the land; the Supreme Court only allowed the residents of al-Araqib to argue against the expropriation in district court. That said, just allowing them to make a legal argument is an important precedent following long years of losses in court.

The land belonging to the unrecognized village of al-Araqib, like countless plots of land in the Negev, was expropriated under the Land Appropriation Law of 1953. The law allowed the state to easily expropriate land for purposes of “development, settlement and security,” with a few ludicrous stipulations: that the land was not in its owner’s possession on April 1, 1952, and that the state use the land for purposes of development, settlement or security, or at least that it needs the land for those purposes. In reality, the state dispossessed the village residents of their land, and has not once used their land, for any purpose.

As part of the legal process that has become more and more common in the Negev in recent years, when al-Araqib’s residents filed a land ownership claim in the 1970s, the southern district prosecutor filed a counter-claim on the same plot of land, claiming it was state land. While the courts verified ownership, the village’s residents, represented by Attorney Michael Sfard, attempted to challenge the expropriation itself.


The State of Israel, which invests massive resources in its effort to invalidate the...

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Losing sight of the consequences of 'less-lethal' weapons

A number of Palestinian children have lost some or all of their sight in the past year as a result of Israeli crowd control measures. Rights group appeals to the attorney general.

By Natasha Roth

Following a series of shootings by Israeli security forces which have caused Palestinian minors to lose all or part of their eyesight, Zakariya Julani, a 13-year-old boy from Shuafat refugee camp, lost his left eye after being shot in the head by a Border Police officer last Tuesday. As with most of the other children before him, Julani had been struck by a 40mm black sponge-tipped bullet, designed to be a non-lethal form of riot control but which has caused a drastic surge in injuries —and at least one death — since its introduction in July 2014. These bullets replaced blue sponge-tipped bullets, which were lighter and therefore less harmful.

Junari is at least the fifth minor to suffer a severe eye injury in this way since last summer [Heb]. On July 27, 2014, a 14-year-old boy was shot in the face with a sponge-tipped bullet near Bab al-Hura, in Jerusalem’s Old City, suffering a fractured eye socket and a brain hemorrhage.

On August 1, Ala Hamdan, a 14-year-old girl, was shot in the face by a sponge-tipped bullet while standing at the second-floor window of her family home in Issawiya, East Jerusalem. She required stitches, and was left with damaged eyesight.

On November 13, an 11-year-old boy, Salah Suleiman, was also shot in the face with a sponge-tipped bullet, losing one eye and damaging the eyesight in his second eye. He is now in danger of going completely blind.

A day later, 10-year-old Mayar Amran Twafic al-Natsheh was hit in the face by a rubber-coated steel bullet while in the car with her family, while driving near Shuafat refugee camp at the time of the attack. According to witnesses, the bullet came through the window of the car and struck al-Natsheh, leaving her with a fractured skull (the fate of her eyesight is unclear).


On December 24, 2014, a neighbor of Suleiman’s, 5-year-old Mohammed Jamal Obeid, was shot in the face with a rubber-coated bullet after getting off his school bus in Issawiya, suffering damage to his eyesight.

At the beginning of March, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) contacted Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino...

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How Israel can stop a nuclear arms race in the Middle East

While Israel is busy wringing its hands over a nuclear deal over which it has no control, it should instead be looking at processes it can influence.

By Sharon Dolev

People in Israel tend to see the nuclear agreement with Iran as an isolated, historical event, one that will either save Israel or place it under an existential threat. While we’re discussing and dissecting an agreement over which we have absolutely no influence, however, passing by right under our nose are other processes and developments — ones we haven’t thought of, spoken of, or even contemplated. That is, despite the fact that they affect us all, and despite the fact that we have a lot to say on the matter. We are talking about the risk of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, and the chance that the Arab states — and others — might drop out of the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The NPT, which was written in 1968 and came into effect in 1970, is based on three basic principles: not using nuclear weapons, dismantling nuclear weapons, and the right to nuclear energy. Most countries in the world are parties to the treaty, save for Pakistan, India and Israel, which never joined, and North Korea, which left.

Although the treaty has three legs, it only walks on two of them because the member states have never managed to agree on a timetable for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Therefore, the Convention’s main drawback is that it focuses on non-proliferation, as opposed to other conventions on weapons of mass destruction, which focus on absolute prohibitions.

The importance of the Convention lies mainly in its ban on nuclear proliferation. At the end of the 1960s we may have feared a world-wide nuclear arms race, but today there are only nine countries that have nuclear weapons. Five of them are the permanent members of the UN Security Council (U.S., Russia, China, the UK). The other four are India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel, which are not members of the NPT, and are therefore not bound by it.

So why is it important to talk about the NPT now? Because NPT Review Conference, which acts as a type of follow-up body that gathers every five years, will take place at the end of April, and there is a chance that the Arab states will leave the treaty or sabotage the conference....

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The road out of the occupation runs through the Nakba

As long as Israelis deny, distort and repress the expulsion of over 750,000 Palestinians, we will never truly accept and absorb the end of the occupation.

By Natasha Roth

It is difficult to find a view in Lifta that isn’t marred by the words ‘death to Arabs’ graffitied in Hebrew on its hollow buildings. Someone even took the trouble to write it in drying cement at the entrance to the site, ensuring that it will always be one of the first things visitors see. The leftovers of a Palestinian village that was depopulated over the course of a few months at the end of 1947 and the beginning of 1948, Lifta’s empty, crumbling houses are spattered across a valley just outside Jerusalem, each ruin a sign of violence that has come and gone.

It is the most well-preserved of hundreds of remnants of the Nakba — the dispossession of over 750,000 Palestinians and the destruction of over 400 villages during the 1948 war — that tattoo the Israeli landscape, exit wounds from a history we have barricaded out of our lives. Yet these buildings linger at the sides of our roads, as does their meaning at the edge of our consciousness, sinkholes that threaten to consume our self-perception if we stray too close. Small wonder that the racist slogans came out; better to stem the leak at its source.

The problem, at least from the perspective of large parts of the Israeli mainstream, is that these leaks are indicative of a wellspring that will continue to bubble up as long as it is not addressed head-on. There is an underlying, pervasive and unipolar attitude in Israeli society about why we are here, how we got here, and what we are doing (and have done) here. It is an attitude that dictates all the unacknowledged elements of abuse, and which enables the more explicit expressions of racism that dominate the public sphere. And it is an attitude that is inextricably rooted in 1948, and the denial of what those events still mean.

The 1967 occupation — and the motivation behind it — would not have been possible without 1948. The mentality of those who support and enable the occupation lives in an ideology that was birthed at the same time as the State of Israel. As long as we deny, distort and repress the Nakba, Israelis...

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The operational logic behind terrorizing Palestinians

Four Israeli soldiers carry out a routine procedure of ‘showing presence’ by throwing a smoke grenade into a Palestinian home. Its real purpose? Terrorizing innocent people.

By Yossi Gurvitz for Yesh Din

The incident in question, given the daily routine of the occupation, is relatively minor. On December 3rd, 2007, Adnan Abu Haniyeh, a resident of the West Bank village Yanoun, woke up from the sound of an explosion. Something blew up, the windows of his house were shattered and the house was filled with smoke. His little girl screamed in terror, and for a time the family feared that her hearing was permanently damaged. The walls of the house were covered with soot. Abu Haniyeh then heard the sound of a military Hummer.

The rest of the incident will be described according to the investigative files of the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division (MPCID). According to the files, the incident happened this way:

That night, four IDF soldiers arrived in a Hummer at the outskirts of Yanoun to carry out a routine procedure, which the IDF calls “showing our presence.” Those four soldiers were: Platoon Commander Shmulik, Sergeant First Class Eliahu (the driver), Sergeant First Class Rotem and Sergeant Nathan.

Lt. Shmulik ordered the driver to park the vehicle near the village, and before ordering one of the soldiers to shoot a flare. There is a general agreement among the suspects that Eliahu threw a stun grenade in the direction of the house; according to some of the testimonies, Rotem asked the lieutenant for permission to also throw a smoke grenade. The suspects agree that due to the noise made by the Hummer, Shmulik did not hear Rotem’s request, and Rotem — who claimed he thought he heard confirmation — threw the smoke grenade. Eliahu and Rotem both denied they intended to throw the grenades at the house; they failed to explain to the investigators how the grenade nevertheless managed to hit the house.

In his interrogation, carried out by MPCID with relative speed only 14 days after the incident, Lt. Shmulik admitted that he ordered the soldiers to fire a flare and throw a stun grenade. He told the interrogators that he did not hear Rotem asking to throw a smoke grenade, that he knew about it only after the event, and that he would not have approved the request, as it went against procedure. Nevertheless, the lieutenant was in charge, it was his duty...

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