Recent escalations in violence from the Israeli Forces are just latest example of unlawful policy of extrajudicial executions.

6 December 2022 – London: Last Tuesday’s killing of Raed al-Naasan (21) by Israeli Forces in the occupied West Bank represents yet another example of the widespread and deliberate policy of extrajudicial executions. Israeli forces had entered al-Naasan’s village of al-Mughayyir to demolish a Palestinian home that they claimed was built illegally. It is almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain permits to build under occupation and such house demolitions are widespread. According to the UN, 134 Palestinian-owned structures were demolished or seized in August 2022 alone. Al-Nasaan was one of four Palestinians killed in different villages in the occupied West Bank on that day.  

In the hours after al-Naasan’s killing, the Israeli Occupation Forces (‘IOF’) announced that soldiers had used live ammunition in response to a suspect “spotted hurling Molotov cocktails” in their direction. Video evidence broadcast by the BBC on Saturday, as well as eyewitness testimony, contradicts these statements, and instead suggests that the IOF employed deliberate and lethal force in response to a group of young men throwing stones towards military vehicles. The video is taken with an unobstructed view of the killing.   

Israel’s adoption of open-fire regulations allows the use of live ammunition against any individual who “appears to be throwing or is about to throw fireworks or stones.”  In the past year alone, there has been a significant number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces utilising the disproportionate and unlawful open-fire regulations, with many such incidents caught on film, contradicting official IOF statements regarding the circumstances of the incidents themselves – including the killings of 22 year old Ammar Hamdi Mifleh on 2 December 2022, 15 year old Folla Rasmi Masalma on 14 November 2022, and mother of six Ghada Ibrahim Ali Sabateen on 10 April 2022. 

Palestinian and Israeli human rights organisations have long been documenting the wide discrepancies between IOF justifications for killing Palestinian civilians and the accounts provided by witnesses at scenes of fatal killings. Tom Bateman’s reporting for the BBC is one of the few occasions where Israel’s assassination of Palestinian civilians by the IOF has been picked up by international media, and the discrepancy between Israeli accounts and footage has been shown.  

A report by Al-Haq found that in 2019, Israel’s use of excessive force against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank and the city of Jerusalem had resulted in the war crime of “willful killing” of 135 Palestinians, including 28 children (Al-Haq, 2019). Willful killing is a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Times of Israel in December 2021 reported further liberalisations of the IOF’s ‘open fire policies’ which Israel claims to act in accordance with. According to a leading Israeli human rights organisation, B’tselem, “[T]his is no more than a semblance of legality. Gunfire is also used in many other cases, with backing from the government, the courts and the military.” 

One hundred and twenty-five Palestinians have been killed in the occupied West Bank in the first eleven months of 2022, according to Al Jazeera’s recent Fault Line’s report on the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. It is not possible to identify how many of these deaths are as a direct result of Israel’s changes to its ‘open fire regulations.’ What is clear, however, is that the level of killing of unarmed Palestinians has increased dramatically, whilst the IOF’s assumption that they can act with complete impunity is being increasingly revealed. The systematic targeting of Palestinian journalists by Israel may be part of an effort to ensure that the killings taking place in Palestinian towns and villages, like Jenin Camp in the West Bank, where Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by the IOF, are not shown to the world, but images and footage will continue to be provided to reporters and media outlets, furthering a quest for accountability for these crimes.