Two Palestinian protesters have been killed from the practice in recent years despite it being illegal.
In keeping with a recent upsurge in the illegal use of lethal force during weekly Friday demonstrations in Nabi Saleh, video footage emerged last week of an Israeli soldier firing tear gas canisters directly at protesters on March 13, 2015, filmed by local journalist Bilal Tamimi. Shooting tear gas canisters directly at humans can be deadly, due to the velocity at which the canisters are fired. Just over three years ago, Mustafa Tamimi was killed in the same spot after being hit in the face by a canister at close range. In 2009, Bassem Abu Rahmah was killed after being struck in the chest by a tear gas canister in Bil’in. According to Israeli military guidelines, firing tear gas at a direct trajectory toward people – is irregular use of the weapon, and illegal.
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This joins the army’s increasing use of live fire in Nabi Saleh against unarmed protesters, also illegal except in situations of “mortal danger.” During the demonstration shown in the video, a Palestinian demonstrator was shot in the leg by a live bullet; the army released a statement saying that the use of live fire had been in response to a “violent riot of 200 Palestinians” and that a Molotov cocktail had been thrown.
Both these claims are untrue; the demonstration was, however, a particularly violent one due to the actions of the Israeli army and Border Police. Several women and children demonstrators were beaten by soldiers, and three women were arrested: two residents of Nabi Saleh, Bushra Tamimi and Shireen al-Araj, and one Israeli activist, Tali Shapiro. Border Police also used stun grenades in an irregular fashion during the demonstration, throwing them directly at protesters rather than rolling them along the ground [Heb] – also visible in the video (the black canisters are stun grenades).
As those not being beaten and arrested started to run away from the attacks that day, the head of the Border Police unit repeatedly screamed “go home!” as canisters continued to fly past people’s heads and skid next to their feet.
The West Bank military commander, Brig. Gen. Tamir Yadai, boasted recently that the army had taken a “tougher approach” in the area. In light of this, the customary “bad apples” defence that is wheeled out when Israeli security forces’ thuggish behavior is exposed falls flat. Nonetheless, as evinced by the IDF’s statement last Friday, impunity will continue to spread its protective wings over the army’s use of force in the Occupied Territories.
Thanks to Bilal Tamimi, a local journalist from Nabi Saleh who documents every demonstration that takes place in the village, as well as incursions by Israeli security forces.