Israel uses teargas in ways which are illegal

13 December 2011

Israel uses teargas in ways which are illegal

On Friday 9th December 28-year-old Palestinian Mustafa Tamimi was shot in the face by an Israeli soldier from close range with a tear gas grenade. That night he died from his wounds. He was the first fatal casualty from the village of Nabi Saleh where protests have been taking place since December 2009 against the annexation of a hill and an important source of water, for the benefit of the Israeli settlement of Halamish. He was certainly not the first victim of banned uses of teargas. Israeli soldiers regularly use teargas in ways which are not permitted, to attack and wound unarmed civilians rather than to disperse them.

by SP Member of Parliament Harry van Bommel

Harry van BommelThe Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem has for some time been investigating human rights abuses in the Occupied Territories. In September the group brought out a report on Israeli military actions against the weekly demonstrations in Nabi Saleh. The report’s conclusions leave no room for doubt. The al-Qaws water source, situated on a Palestinian’s land, has since July 2008 been used by inhabitants of the neighbouring settlement of Halamish. In 2010 it was confiscated by them, by means of an official declaration that it was a place of archaeological interest. Legal procedures led to a ruling by the High Court that the settlers could not be prevented from entering the area around the source or from using it. Palestinians have only limited access and are forbidden from using the source at all on Fridays. For Palestinians, Al-Qaws can no longer serve their irrigation systems or their recreational needs. It is this theft of land and water that has led to the protests by the 550 inhabitants of Nabi Saleh.

Last summer I visited Nabi Saleh in the company of SP leader Emile Roemer and saw videos of the actions of the Israeli army against the unarmed demonstrators. The excessive use of teargas, including even shooting teargas grenades through the windows of houses, was sickening. According to B’Tselem the Israeli army’s instructions do not allow teargas to be fired directly at persons, a fact confirmed in 2009 by the legal advisor for Judea and Samaria. Yet at demonstrations studied by B’Tselem, this happened regularly, leading to injuries. Excessive use of teargas was evident, to take an example, on 24th June of this year when at least 150 grenades were fired in Nabi Saleh, a village which covers no more than 0.4 square kilometres.

With this illegal use of teargas the Israeli army has entered a new phase in its oppression of the people of Nabi Saleh. Initially the unarmed demonstrators were struck with clubs, shot at with rubber bullets and attacked with pepper sprays after being knocked to the ground, all without there being any shadow of a risk to the safety of Israeli persons or Israeli property. These people were, after all, in their own village. Now, increasingly, tear gas grenades are being fired directly at people. B’Tselem and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel have with justice demanded that the army follow its own instructions for use of teargas and that misuse should be punished. Objecting that missiles fired from Gaza also cause suffering to innocent civilians is misplaced. Obviously this must be condemned, but these missile attacks can in no way be blamed on the people of this small West Bank village. It is high time that the European Union - which, it should be noted, helped finance the B’Tselem enquiry - and also the Netherlands condemned this criminal use of teargas. Finally, the cause of this misery, the seizure of the water source and the land, must be reversed. Only in that way can the weekly protests in Nabi Saleh be prevented from escalating into conditions of war.

This article first appeared, in the original Dutch, on 13 December 2011 on the website www.huisvanafgevaardigden.nl

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