Amnesty: Spike in Use of Lethal Force by Israeli Soldiers in Occupied West Bank

With the world’s eyes fixed on the deadly war in Gaza, Israeli forces have over the past four months unleashed a brutal wave of violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, carrying out unlawful killings, including by using lethal force without necessity or disproportionately during protests and arrest raids, and denying medical assistance to those injured, said Amnesty International.

The organization investigated four emblematic cases where Israeli forces used unlawful lethal force– three incidents in October and one in November – which resulted in the unlawful killing of 20 Palestinians, including seven children. Researchers remotely interviewed 12 people, 10 of them eyewitnesses, including first responders, and local residents. The organization’s Crisis Evidence Lab verified 19 videos and four photos in examining these four incidents.

Taha Mahamid, 15, who was shot dead by Israeli forces in front of his house in Tulkarem (Photo: Amnesty International)

Amnesty International’s research also found that Israeli forces obstructed medical assistance to people with life-threatening wounds and attacked those attempting to assist injured Palestinians, including paramedics.  Over the past few months Israel has stepped up deadly raids across the West Bank and tensions have skyrocketed. In one recent incident Israeli forces carried out a raid masquerading as medical staff. At least 507 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank in 2023, including at least 81 children, making it the deadliest year for Palestinians since the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) began recording casualties in 2005. 

“Under the cover of the relentless bombardment and atrocity crimes in Gaza, Israeli forces have unleashed unlawful lethal force against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, carrying out unlawful killings and displaying a chilling disregard for Palestinian lives. These unlawful killings are in blatant violation of international human rights law and are committed with impunity in the context of maintaining Israel’s institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination over Palestinians,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Director of Global Research, Advocacy and Policy.

“These cases provide shocking evidence of the deadly consequences of Israel’s unlawful use of force against Palestinians in the West Bank. Israeli authorities, including the Israeli judicial system, have proven shamefully unwilling to ensure justice for Palestinian victims. In this climate of near total impunity, an international justice system worth its salt must step in. The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court must investigate these killings and injuries as possible war crimes of willful killing and willfully causing great suffering or serious injury. The situation in Palestine and Israel is a litmus test for the legitimacy and reputation of the court. It cannot afford to fail it.”

Since 7 October, across the West Bank, Israeli security forces’ use of unlawful force during law enforcement operations has been unrelenting, sowing fear and intimidation among entire communities; it has also been used to disperse rallies and protests held in solidarity with Gaza and demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners and detainees. Between 7 October and 31 December 2023, 299 Palestinians were killed, marking a 50% increase compared to the first nine months of the year. At least 61 further Palestinians, including 13 children, have been killed so far in 2024 as of 29 January, according to OCHA.

Amnesty International sent requests for information on the four cases investigated to the Israeli military’s spokesperson unit and to the Jerusalem District Commander on 26 November. At the time of publication, no response had been received. Amnesty International is continuing to investigate other cases of excessive force during law enforcement operations, such as the repeated raids and attacks in Jenin and Tulkarem in the northern occupied West Bank.

In one illustrative case investigated by Amnesty International, Israeli military and border police forces used excessive force during a 30-hour-long raid on Nour Shams refugee camp in Tulkarem beginning on 19 October. During the operation Israeli forces killed 13 Palestinians, including six children, four of them under the age of 16, and arrested 15 people. Israeli military sources quoted in media reports said that one Israeli Border Police officer was killed and nine were injured after an improvised explosive device was thrown at them by Palestinians.

Residents told Amnesty International that, during the operation, Israeli soldiers stormed more than 40 residential homes, destroying personal belongings and drilling holes in the walls for sniper outposts. Water and electricity to the camp was cut off and soldiers used bulldozers to destroy public roads, electricity networks and water infrastructure.

Among those killed during the raid was 15-year-old Taha Mahamid, who Israeli forces shot dead in front of his house as he came out to check whether Israeli forces had left the area. Taha was unarmed and posed no threat to the soldiers at the time he was shot, based on witness testimony and videos reviewed by Amnesty International. A video filmed by one of his sisters and verified by Amnesty’s Crisis Evidence Lab shows Taha walking on the street, peeking to check for the presence of soldiers and then collapsing on the street outside his house, after the sound of three gunshots.