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Israelis accused of abusing detained Palestinian minors – Israel clears colonel linked to Palestinian death

JERUSALEM: Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (left) listens during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. — AP
JERUSALEM: Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (left) listens during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. — AP

JERUSALEM: Human Rights Watch yesterday accused Israeli security forces of using unnecessary force in the arrest and interrogation of Palestinian minors in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem. HRW also said that arrests of youths had spiraled since an October 2015 outbreak of violence that has killed more than 200 people. It cited figures released by Israeli rights group B’Tselem showing that in January 406 Palestinians under 18 years of age were held “as security detainees and prisoners” compared with 183 in January 2015.

“Interviews with children who have been detained, video footage and reports from lawyers reveal that Israeli security forces are using unnecessary force in arresting and detaining children, in some cases beating them, and holding them in unsafe and abusive conditions,” the rights group said in a statement. “Screams, threats, and beatings are no way for the police to treat a child or to get accurate information from them,” it quoted its Israel and Palestine director Sari Bashi as saying. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the report was “inaccurate and misleading”.

“The youths were arrested for being directly involved in terrorist and criminal activity,” he said. HRW cited testimony from three young men, one-identified as 16-year-old. Ahmed A-from the West Bank city of Hebron and two from Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem. “Soldiers arrested Ahmed on November 27 at about 7:00 pm in the garden of a friend… near his home in Hebron,” the HRW report said.

“He said that the soldiers blindfolded and handcuffed him and took him to a police station in the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arba, where he was made to sit outside on the ground until about 12:30 am. “He asked to have his father come there, but police officers told him his parents would not be allowed into the interrogation. “He was permitted to speak to his lawyer by phone before the interrogation,” it added. “He said interrogators accused him of having a knife, which he denied, and then took him to a military compound,” where six or seven soldiers forced him to lie on the ground and hit and kicked him.

He told Human Rights Watch he was “hit on my back and legs, with kicks and blows to my head.” “He was transferred to a detention facility the next day and released six days later without charge, after a DNA test failed to link him to a knife that had been found,” the report said. Violence since October has left 200 Palestinians and 28 Israelis dead. Most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out attacks and many of the assailants have been young people, including teenagers, according to Israeli authorities. Other youths have been shot dead during protests and clashes with security forces.

Israeli colonel cleared
Meanwhile, an Israeli colonel has been cleared of any criminal charges after shooting dead a Palestinian teen who stoned his jeep in the West Bank last year, the military said yesterday. A rights group that distributed a video showing the shooting denounced the decision, which comes amid controversy over a separate killing of a Palestinian by an Israeli soldier last month. Colonel Israel Shomer had been under investigation for the July 3 shooting near Qalandia checkpoint, south of Ramallah, that killed Mohammad Kasba, 17.

The army said at the time Shomer and another soldier had opened fire when the vehicle was damaged “and in response to the imminent danger”. But a video distributed by the B’Tselem human rights group appeared to dispute the claim, showing the shots were fired at Kasba while he seemed to be running away after stoning the jeep. The army said a Palestinian had thrown a rock through the windshield of Shomer’s vehicle and that in response the officer “exited his vehicle and fired into the air and towards the lower extremities of the assailant.” “However, due to the reality of the operational situation, the shots resulted in the death of the assailant,” it said in a statement.

“The military advocate general concluded that the shooting of the perpetrator was not criminal and the event does not justify taking legal action against the officer.” B’Tselem condemned the army’s decision, which it called “an integral part of the whitewash mechanism which is Israel’s military investigative system.” It said the “assertion that the firing was legal, since the officer claimed that he aimed at the youth’s legs but missed, clearly indicates the investigative system’s willingness to ignore the law and the open-fire regulations.” The decision comes with tensions high over the actions of another Israeli soldier, who was caught on video shooting a Palestinian assailant in the head on March 24 as he lay on the ground wounded and posing no apparent danger.- Agencies

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