[report] Pulling the trigger is the first resort: new report reveals surge in Israeli violence against Palestinians

Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor  /  January 30, 2023

Palestinian Territory – The alarming surge in killings committed by the Israeli army against Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in 2022 is extremely concerning, warned Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor in a statement, stressing the need to activate accountability and end the state of impunity that Israel has enjoyed for decades.

In a report issued today entitled “Pulling the trigger is the first resort”, Euro-Med Monitor stated that the recorded number of Palestinian deaths in the West Bank increased by 82% in 2022 compared to 2021, and nearly fivefold (491%) compared to 2020. Analysis of field data reveals that the majority of Palestinian fatalities were civilians killed by Israel’s army in unjustified operations and contexts where they presented no imminent threat or danger to the lives of Israeli soldiers or settlers.

The new report is based on a comprehensive survey of killing cases during 2022, documentation of events in the field, and interviews conducted by Euro-Med Monitor with eyewitnesses as well as friends and family members of victims.

 “The Israeli army’s killings and summary executions of Palestinian civilians, as evidenced by its lax open-fire regulations and official protection system for perpetrators of horrific violations, demonstrate that these are state-sanctioned rather than individual actions,” said Ramy Abdu, Chairman of Euro-Med Monitor.

“Regardless of whether Israel’s government is on the political left, centre, or right, the use of lethal force against Palestinians remains a key element of its policy,” Abdu added. “We do fear that this year will see a rise in Israeli violence, with only extremist decision-makers in power who believe in killing Palestinians and driving them from their lands.”

The report presents detailed statistics of Palestinians killed by Israeli army forces and settlers in 2022, as it documents the killing of 204 Palestinians by Israeli army forces in 2022, 142 of whom were from the West Bank (69.6%), 37 from the Gaza Strip (18.1%), 20 from Jerusalem (9.8%), and five from the Arab localities within Israel (2.4%).

The data presented in the report show that Israeli forces carried out 32 summary executions, with 18 of them occurring alongside allegations that the victims had either completed or attempted a stabbing or vehicular assault against Israelis near Israeli checkpoints or hotspots; the remaining executions were generally lacking any rationale or carried out solely based on suspicion.

With 55 Palestinians killed, Jenin Governorate had the highest number of Palestinian deaths in 2022 compared to other Palestinian cities and governorates, accounting for 26.9% of all deaths. Nablus Governorate followed with 35 deaths, accounting for 17.1% of all deaths; this is due to the higher frequency of Israeli raids and the execution of other special operations in the two governorates.

August 2022 saw the most Palestinians killed in one month, with 42 deaths accounting for 20.5% of the total number of deaths, not including 16 others killed the same month as a result of local rockets falling in the Gaza Strip. The August death toll was high due to the Israeli army’s “Operation Breaking Dawn”, which lasted three days and targeted activists and sites associated with the Islamic Jihad movement in the Gaza Strip. October saw the next highest number of Palestinians killed (28), followed by 23 in April, 20 in November, 18 in September, and 17 in March, all in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Analysis of the victim groups and contexts of the killings revealed that 125 of those killed were civilians who were uninvolved in any clashes, accounting for 61.2% of the total death toll. Seventeen additional people were killed while attempting to carry out individual attacks (such as stabbings or vehicular assaults), while 62 Palestinian militants—acting either on their own or in groups—were killed in confrontations or when attempting to launch attacks against Israeli targets.

According to the report’s figures, children made up approximately 20% of victims of Israeli killings in 2022, with 41 children killed in Israeli attacks and assaults, in addition to eight women killed the same year, three of whom were field-executed in the West Bank. The authorization from the Israeli political echelon for the army and security forces to act with “complete freedom” under the pretext of “countering terrorism” appears to have paved the way for the unjustified killing and abuse of Palestinian civilians at military checkpoints and in cities, villages, and towns throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The behaviour of Israeli forces toward Palestinian civilians reveals the state’s clear disregard for its international obligations under the Geneva Conventions, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention, which requires parties to a conflict to protect rather than endanger civilians, as well as the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court, under which Israeli practises amount to war crimes.

Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor calls on the European Union to review the implementation of its partnership agreement with the Israeli government in light of Israeli violations of the provisions related to respect for human rights and principles of democracy, as well as halt cooperation programs until Israel’s government meets its obligations and ceases its gross violations of human rights in the Palestinian Territory.

Relevant UN mechanisms and bodies must take urgent action to protect civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and ensure investigation and accountability for gross violations and any violations that may constitute war crimes. The International Criminal Court must commence its investigations without delay, and handle the situation in the Palestinian Territory in the same manner as it does with similar cases in other regions of the world.