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New report details IDF crowd control measures that can kill

Crowd control measures have killed 10 protesters since 2005. Meet ‘the skunk,’ the tear gas canister and the rubber-coated bullet – just some of the measures the IDF uses against civilian Palestinian protesters in the West Bank. 

A press photographer helps his colleague which was hit from a tear gas canister shot by Israeli soldiers, during a protest against the occupation in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, December 23, 2011 (Photo by: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

At least ten Palestinians have been killed by crowd control measures used by the IDF since 2005; 46 more were shot to death using live ammunition. These numbers, published by Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, refer only to civilian protesters and not to people killed during IDF military operations or to Palestinians who were shot to death at checkpoints or near security fences.

Palestinians have engaged in unarmed protest against the Israeli occupation for decades. Acts of protest include sit downs, marches, rallies, roadblocks and more. Some protests include large-scale stone-throwing at soldiers. Israel considers all forms of protest against the occupation illegal (the West Bank is under military law, which puts many limits on political organization, mobilization and protest), and the army has developed various weapons systems that are designed to stop or disperse demonstrations without killing many protesters.

However, there are ways to use these weapons which can make them lethal. For example, shooting tear gas canisters directly at protesters could result in death – at least two cases of this sort happened in recent years, in the villages of Bil’in and in Nabi Saleh. For years, a widespread practice in IDF units was to reduce the number of rubber-coated bullets in the packs, resulting a higher-velocity lethal weapon. At least six Palestinians died from rubber-coated metal bullet wounds in recent years.

Mustafa Tamimi, a 28 year-old Palestinian from Nabi Saleh seen just before he gets hit with a tear gas canister shot by an Israeli soldier from a short distance during the weekly demonstration in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, 09.12.2011. Tamimi later died from his wounds (Photo Haim Scwarczenberg)

It should be noted that crowd-control measures are used to end protests even in cases when stones are not thrown or when no soldier is at any risk of physical harm from the protest.

The following video shows examples of the common practice of shooting tear gas canisters directly at protesters in the village of Nabi Saleh.

The report by B’Tselem lists all the known measures used by the IDF against civilian protesters, along with the relevant army orders regarding their use. As the report details, most of those weapons are not used in protests by Jews, regardless of the location or the nature of the protest. Some of the measures are only used in the West Bank.

The most common weapons in recent years are:

Tear gas is a chemical irritant that severely affects the eyes and the respiratory system. It is the predominant crowd control weapon in use by Israeli security forces and is dispersed through several types of grenades manufactured in the United States. The grenades can be hand thrown, fired from launchers or from jeep-mounted launching systems.

Stun grenades are the second-most predominant crowd control weapon after tear gas. They are a diversionary measure, whose explosion emits a bright light and a thunderous noise. The grenades are designed to cause fear and panic, thereby enabling security forces to overpower people. Like the tear-gas grenades in use by Israeli security forces, the stun grenades are also manufactured in the United States.

At least a dozen of tear gas canisters shot at protesters simultaneously in the village of Nabi Saleh, 07.10.2011 (Photo by:Anne Paq/Activestills)

Rubber-coated metal bullets are utilized primarily against stone-throwers. Security forces use two types of bullets made of a metal core coated with either rubber or plastic, and fired from launchers mounted on rifle barrels. These so-called “rubber” bullets are manufactured by Israel Military Industries Ltd. The Orr Commission prohibited the use of rubber-coated metal bullets within Israel’s borders. In East Jerusalem, since the prohibition, Israel Police has been using 40mm-caliber sponge rounds imported from the United States.

The Skunk is a foul-smelling liquid developed by the Israel Police for the purpose of dispersing demonstrations. It is sprayed from truck-mounted water cannons. The odor is so offensive that it forces any person in its vicinity to back off.

Read the full report here.

WATCH: Soldier uses live ammunition on unarmed protesters, injuring teen
Palestinian teen killed by IDF near West Bank separation barrier
Why was 17-year-old Muhammad killed?

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    1. rsgengland

      According to the article, since 2005 approximately 56 persons have been killed in protest confrontations.
      That is approximately 9 a year.
      Considering the intensity and emotion at some of these protests, all things being equal, we have to be happy the toll is not higher.
      Crowd and protest control in countries like Syria and Egypt prove how costly poor controls can be.
      The Israeli approach to crowd control is improving constantly, as evidenced by the reducing casualty figures.
      All means of crowd control can be lethal.
      All forms of protest that employ stone throwing and catapults can also be lethal, and using these items can’t be construed as non-violent protest.

      Reply to Comment
      • Carl

        When you say “we have to be happy the toll is not higher” I’m taking it that doesn’t include the victims’ friends and families: “all things being equal.”

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          But I am presuming he includes the families of those who have been spared because the IDF doesn’t use the Syrian style of crowd control also known as artillery.

          Reply to Comment
          • Yes, and this is the unbelievable thing. Someone who has full political and civil rights is sitting in the comments section of +972, declaring that Palestinians who have none of those rights should be grateful that at least the IDF isn’t Assad’s forces. “All things being equal, we have to be happy…” Who is this ‘we’ that Rsgengland speaks of? Certainly not herself. She’s not the one living under a regime where all political demonstrations (typically defined as a gathering of more than ten) are banned, and participation can get you tear-gassed, shot at with rubber bullets, liberally doused in skunkwater, arrested on the spot, arrested in the middle of the following night, arrested six months down the line, detained without a trial, and so on. I doubt she would be extolling the IDF’s virtuous moderation if she had to face the possibility of all this.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Indeed, someone who has gone through a time period where the same Palestinians sent bombers to blow him up in restaurants and on buses is perfectly justified in believing that the Palestinians should be grateful that it was Sharon’s army and not Assad’s army that was fighting them during Homat Magen and that it is the IDF and not Egyptian police or Syrian army units that are responding to their rioting. This should be entirely self-evident to anyone who spends time watching the Arabic satellite channels that show the grisly results of the preferred responses to civil disturbances and insurrections by other players in the region, that is a member of pretty much every Palestinian household.

            Reply to Comment
          • Martial law and its restrictions preceded suicide bombings by decades (and were initially used on Palestinian Israel citizens, pre-1966). Suicide bombings can’t be used as retroactive justification for systemic Israeli military policy, and nor can it be claimed that Palestinians who orchestrated bombings are somehow the ‘same’ as Palestinians campaigning for access to the water spring and an end to land confiscation in Nabi Saleh.

            Finally, raising suicide bombings in a comment thread where Rsgengland has compared the Palestinian and Syrian death tolls is to invite a couple of other comparisons. Would you accept it if internationals were to tell you, from a comfortable distance, that as an Israeli you should be ‘grateful’ that at least Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades weren’t Assad? After all, the death toll was so low, comparatively…

            This is what happens when you try to play the numbers game with other people’s suffering and use killings in one place as a means to dismiss or trivialise killings in another.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Suicide bombings can be used as justification for military action that causes damage and in inflicting that damage quite widely given how widespread the phenomenon and support for it were in Palestinian society (75%+ at some points). At the same time the restraint shown to limit civilian casualties in response to such a barbarous tactic is the differentiating factor. This restraint is made very obvious by comparing tactics and casualties caused during the operations of other countries in the region, as well as outside of it (Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan and Vietnam, Russians in Chechnya, and in fact pretty much every other prolonged conflict has higher percentages of civilian casualties).

            I can’t argue that it is the ‘same’ Palestinians in Nabi Saleh as those that carried out suicide bombings. That would in deed be rather difficult. Yet they partake in the same conflict and mostly share the narrative and goals. Just as I can’t argue that they are the same people you can’t argue that they are entirely divorced and separate from the conflict that the suicide bombers were a part of.

            If I honestly believed that the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade showed any hesitation in killing Israeli civilians during the second intifada I would be tempted to accept the claim of the internationals. However, given that this was the movement that launched a large number of suicide bombings whose goal was to maximize the number of dead Israeli civilians that would be somewhat difficult to accept. They acted no differently from Assad within the means they have available to them. Were they to limit their operations to targeting the IDF as an ethical issue I certainly might be grateful. I wouldn’t like it very much but I would accept that at least they operate according to a set of moral principles in an attempt to minimize civilian casualties.

            I don’t see your point. Yes, the Palestinians should be grateful that Israel makes an effort to avoid causing civilian casualties. What precisely is your argument to the contrary?

            Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            Well in that case, the Jews who were persecuted in Russia during the late 19th century should have been grateful they were not targeted with artillery. If the Tsarist officials really wanted to just kill Jews, they could have used their armed forces directly, but the indirect use of mobs was a show of restraint.

            Putting the facetiousness aside, we know the pogroms could not have taken place without previously existing state persecution of the Jews (Their forced concentration into the Pale, restrictions on commercial activities). Likewise, Israel restricts Palestinian access to the Jordan valley and land belonging to the villages and allows Jewish Israelis to migrate across the green line while forbidding Palestinians to move in the other direction. Of course there’s the elephant in the room, the fact Israel became a Jewish state in the first place by expelling the Palestinians with artillery.

            So this isn’t an issue of crowd control and Israel is not showing restraint in self-defense. It’s enforcing racial segregation.

            Reply to Comment
      • andrew r

        “All forms of protest that employ stone throwing and catapults can also be lethal, and using these items can’t be construed as non-violent protest.”

        In the video showing the protest where Bassem abu Rahme was killed, it’s very clear that the soldiers started firing tear gas (@ 1:30) despite the lack of anyone throwing stones. You’ll probably justify the soldiers’ use of force on the basis of the protesters simply approaching the fench, but then you’ll be changing your argument to suit the situation. Which is usually how Zionist arguments work.


        Reply to Comment
    2. Piotr Berman

      Israeli crowd control is definitely more lethal than in Iran. Stone throwing is frequently used by settlers and haredim, and it never results in police shooting at them.

      Lastly, recently there was a big escalation of killing by IDF, so progress is by no means “constant”. When cabinet ministers incite the soldiers to kill, they do.

      Reply to Comment
    3. The Trespasser

      I seems that the first humanitarian measure which Israelis should apply is strip all Palestinians of driving licenses and confiscate all vehicles – nearly 150 Palestinians die each year in traffic accidents.

      Israel is obliged to do something.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespassed

        I am surprised from that bridge that you sit under you haven’t noticed that Israelis get into car accidents as well.

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          Isn’t it great? Israelis killing more Israelis that Arabs could even dream of.

          Reply to Comment
    4. If you think you are in a war, these numbers are evidence of enormous restraint and humanity. If you think you are in a policing action which is not going away, these numbers show a violation of fundamental living rights; for where some are killed with impunity, absent real immediate cause, you can be assured that other population control measures are blunting lives and livelihood.

      Israel has won the suicide bombing war and moved into an unwanted and unrealized policing action. While I charitably say “unrealized,” I recall that in 1967 a minor minister of the government urged against occupation, saying he would not want to live in a State doing such to others. But he was–minor.

      The definitional battle now is over policing action and its jurisdiction.

      Reply to Comment

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