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When remembering the Sabbath day enables settler violence

Settler violence on the Sabbath is not uncommon in the West Bank: Israeli civilians feel emboldened to attack Palestinians, knowing that law enforcement will refrain from taking serious action until the following week. 

By Yossi Gurvitz, for Yesh Din

They came riding on a horse, two Israeli civilians armed with firearms. One of them jumped off, drew a box cutter, and informed the Palestinian shepherd, B., that “this is our land.” As if to prove the point, he added that he would kill the sheep as well. The two Israelis began throwing stones at the animals, killing one of them with a direct hit to the head. The herd began running away in panic, and B. saw two of them falling down, their legs broken. One of the attackers began hitting sheep in the eyes with a stick.

The place: Khirbet Tel Al Hime, Tubas Region, Jordan Valley. The date: February 17, 2017. Khirbet Tel Al Hime is a small enclosure located some 250 meters west of Road 90, the major north-to-south highway in Israel-Palestine that runs through the West Bank. Around 30 people, all of them from the Ayoub family, live there, and have been living there since 1962.

Until the last few months, say the residents, they had few problems, and none with settlers — though the army did demolish some of their tents from time to time. They shepherded their flock and made cheese from the milk, selling it in the nearby town of Tubas. There is no infrastructure in place, and even the water has to be delivered in tanks from another town. But, all in all, the residents say it wasn’t bad.

All this changed in September 2016. The army raided the enclosure and demolished it. Almost at the same time, a new Israeli outpost was built nearby. Experience tells us that outposts built “accidentally” and without coordination with the Israeli authorities do not survive. So far, this new outpost is still standing.

One suspects we see the old method, the one described in Yesh Din’s The Road to Dispossession report, in action: first, the army allows Israelis to take over land, then turns a blind eye when they use ideological violence against Palestinians, all of which is part of an attempt to push them into despair...

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When shooting a teen in the back is a 'professional error'

An IDF brigade commander shot a Palestinian teen who threw a rock at his jeep, while the boy was running away, and then left him bleeding on the road. Initially, the colonel claimed his life was in danger. With each subsequent interrogation, the story changed. The military police determined the incident was a ‘professional error’ –  bad aim – and closed the case despite evidence that tells a very different story.

By John Brown* and Noam Rotem

On July 3, 2015, Col. Yisrael Shomer, then-commander of the IDF’s Binyamin Brigade, was driving towards the Qalandiya checkpoint in the West Bank. Mohammad al-Kasbeh, a 17 year-old Palestinian, threw a large rock at the windshield of Shomer’s vehicle, and started to flee. The Binyamin Brigade commander stepped out of the car, fired two bullets into the back of the fleeing boy, and left him wounded and bleeding on the ground without offering any help. Kasbeh died from his wounds. The military police file was closed with no indictment filed, and Col. Shomer was promoted to commander of the IDF’s Southern Command.

Now, for the first time, our investigation reveals that a subordinate soldier who was with Shomer at the time of the shooting testified to Military Police investigators that neither man was in immediate danger, and that his commander failed to follow the protocol for arresting suspects. Furthermore, while Shomer claimed that the boy was holding an object, the soldier testified that that the boy held nothing. Video analysis of the incident, made possible by these testimonies, also showed that the entire shooting was documented, and contradicts Shomer’s claim that he fired in the air.

What follows is a review of the Military Police’s file, the changing versions of the officer’s testimony (especially after B’Tselem released video footage documenting the shooting), the contradictory testimonies of the soldiers who were with Shomer that day, and the decision of the Military Advocate General (MAG) not to file an indictment against the IDF colonel.

Last month, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) filed an appeal to the High Court of Justice demanding that the army prosecute Shomer for murder, or at least negligent manslaughter. The appeal is based on the military’s own investigation file, reviewed in this article, and the crux of the argument is that Col. Shomer was not in mortal danger when he fired into the boy’s back.