Thursday, October 29, 2020

Al Haq: Israeli soldiers acted with reckless disregard for the value of human life

By Jan Walraven - April 14, 2014
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation] [Features]
Tags: [Al Haq] [investigations]

An Israeli soldier stands at the entrance of the Allenby border crossing, the main border crossing for Palestinians traveling to neighboring Jordan and beyond | AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner 

One month after the death of Palestinian judge Raed Zeiter at the Allenby border crossing on 10 March, Palestinian human rights organization Al Haq published the results of its investigation into his killing by Israeli soldiers. On the basis of several eyewitness accounts, the report concludes that "the Israeli soldiers demonstrated a clear intent to inflict serious bodily harm and an extreme reckless disregard for the value of human life."

Recounting the way events unfolded, Al Haq’s report sketches a clear picture of the circumstances in which Zeiter, a Palestinian judge from Nablus but working in Jordan, was killed. On 10 March Zeiter was smoking outside the bus that was to bring him from Jordan into the West Bank, looking on as his fellow passenger re-boarded the bus after clearing the first of several Israeli inspection points.

A female passenger, who was also lingering outside the bus waiting for her child to finish using the bathroom, stated that an Israeli soldier began pushing Zeiter for delaying the buses journey. Zeiter reacted in turn by pushing the soldier back, which led two other soldiers to join the first in pushing Zeiter to the ground. Zeiter reportedly got up, and began walking towards the soldiers, hands in the air, shouting protests against his treatment. At that point, soldiers pointed their guns towards Zeiter, and four shots were heard, according to eyewitnesses testimony collected by Al Haq. 

All passengers were then forcefully taken off the bus and searched by the soldiers. It took paramedics about 20 minutes to reach Zeiter, "despite the fact that they were stationed at the crossing at the time of the incident," Al Haq’s report alleges.

Alternative means

A day after the death of judge Zeiter, the Israeli army published its investigation, stating that "a terrorist attacked Israeli soldiers (...) with a metal pole while shouting 'Allahu Akbar,’ and then attempted to seize one soldier’s weapon." According to an Israeli army spokesperson, the "soldiers responded to the attack in accordance with standard procedures, firing at the terrorist’s lower extremities. The suspect then began to strangle a soldier, and the forces again resorted to using live fire, resulting in the terrorist’s death."

The killing of Zeiter caused large protests in Jordan. Mass demonstrations targeted the Israeli embassy in Amman, forcing Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to publicly express his regret over the judge's death, subsequently ordering a joint Israeli-Jordanian investigation into the incident. That same day the same day, the IDF labeled him a terrorist, as Palestine Monitor reported earlier. The results of the joint investigation have not yet been published.

In its report, Al Haq concludes that "the soldiers had the capacity to deal with Judge Raid Zuaiter’s (sic) protest against the soldiers’ insult and mistreatment of him by alternative means, including by his arrest." Al Haq stresses the fact that the soldiers should have been able to determine that Zeiter was not carrying a weapon or another dangerous object, as they had been standing close by for a long period of time leading up to the events. Zeiter was shot four times in his thigh and pelvis. Al Haq is of the opinion that, even if Zeiter posed a real threat, soldiers "could have shot him in the leg to restrict his movement." Furthermore, the shots were fired without previous warning, violating the soldiers' code of conduct.

Al Haq’s report also points out the fact that it took Israeli paramedics stationed at the crossing approximately 20 minutes to reach Zeiter, allowing him enough time to bleed to death. The delay, argues Al Haq, "indicates the indifference of the Israeli personnel in charge of the crossing with regards to the life and fate of the victim."

It is worth noting that at the time of the killing, security cameras at the crossing were not operational, which goes against basic operating procedures at Allenby. The lack of footage from security cameras has made it impossible to fully verify different accounts of the incident. 

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