Israel Defense Forces Say Amnesty Report Ignores Violence Against Israelis
The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday said that a report published by Amnesty International, charging that “Israeli forces have displayed a callous disregard for human life,” ignored “both the substantial increase in Palestinian violence initiated over the past year” and showed “a complete lack of understanding” as to the operational challenges posed to the IDF by civilian violence.
The IDF said in 2013 there were 5,000 incidents of Palestinian Arabs throwing rocks at Israelis, equivalent to 75 incidents per day, with half of those along main roads. As a result, 132 Israelis were injured last year, nearly double the count in 2012.
“Sadly, rock throwing and violent demonstrations present only part of the operational challenges posed to the IDF by Palestinian violence in Judea and Samaria,” the IDF said in a statement. “Indeed, in 2013 there were 66 further terror attacks which included shootings, the planting of IEDs, blunt weapon attacks and the abduction and murder of a soldier.”
The IDF said its focus is on containing “Palestinian initiated violence,” that it described as often “life threatening.” Its policy is to implement riot dispersal means, including loud sirens, water cannons, sound grenades and then tear gas. If “human life and safety remains under threat, only then is the use of precision munition authorized,” the IDF said.
The IDF said it holds itself and its soldiers to “the highest of professional standards” and trains and equips itself as such. “When there is any suspicion of wrong doing, or breach of discipline, the IDF reviews, investigates and takes action where appropriate,” it said.
The Amnesty Report, Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank, was also condemned by watchdog NGO Monitor, which follows the charity, noting that the authors of the report, while unlisted, had in the past been two anti-Israel activists with no background in military ethics or procedure.
In addition, NGO Monitor said, the content of the 85-page report relies mainly on testimonies of the families of young Arab men, such as 22-year-old Muhammad Asfur, whose friends acknowledge in the report that he was throwing rocks at IDF soldiers, that he refused their calls to back down and then was undeterred by a round of vile-smelling teargas. The IDF responded by firing rubber bullets at Asfur from 100-feet away, hitting him in the head, causing the wound from which he died in the hospital later that day.
“Amnesty lacks the expertise and credibility to analyze or assign blame for deaths in the context of violent confrontations in the West Bank,” Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, said. “As in the past, the allegations in this report repeat unverifiable Palestinian ‘testimony.'”