a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
Palestinian terrorist groups and unaffiliated individuals killed seven Israeli civilians and five Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers in terrorist attacks in the West Bank, and more were injured, according to the Israeli NGO B’Tselem. In addition, the Israeli government reported that security forces foiled approximately 500 terrorist attacks during the year.
For example, on September 17, 17-year-old Palestinian Khalil Jabarin fatally stabbed Ari Fuld at a shopping mall in the West Bank, before being shot by Fuld and another civilian and arrested by police. An Israeli military court indicted Jabarin on October 22 for “intentionally causing death,” and he remained in custody pending trial at year’s end.
During the year Israeli forces killed Palestinians in the West Bank who were attempting or allegedly attempting to attack Israelis, according to B’Tselem and media reports. According to media reports and B’Tselem, some of those killed did not pose a lethal threat to the Israeli Security Forces (ISF) or civilians at the time they were killed.
For example, on December 4, IDF soldiers shot and killed Mohammad Khosam Khabali in the West Bank city of Tulkarm. After the incident, the IDF claimed they were reacting to a group of rock throwing Palestinians. B’Tselem compiled security camera videos showing Khabali walking away from the soldiers when he was killed.
On March 30, Palestinians in Gaza launched the “March of Return,” a series of weekly protests along the fence between Gaza and Israel. The protests, some of which drew tens of thousands of people, and included armed terrorists, militants who launched incendiary devices into Israel, and unarmed protesters, continued throughout the year. Hamas took control of the weekly protests, and many of the protests were violent. IDF shot and killed 190 Palestinians at the Gaza border as of the end of the year, including 41 minors, according to B’Tselem. According to the World Health organization, 6,239 Palestinians in Gaza were injured by IDF live fire in the protests. B’Tselem stated that 149 of the Palestinian protesters who were killed did not take part in hostilities. The government stated that many of the victims were operatives of Hamas or encouraged by Hamas to protest near the border. For example, following media reports that the IDF shot and killed 62 Palestinians at the Gaza fence on May 14, Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed at least 53 were affiliated with their organizations, including some who were active members. The IDF stated they opened an internal inquiry into each Palestinian death at the border. The Israeli Military Advocate General opened five criminal investigations into IDF actions at the Gaza border, as of the end of the year.
On June 1, IDF shot and killed Razan al-Najjar north of Khuza’ah in Gaza during a Friday protest near the security fence with Israel. Al-Najjar was identified as a medical provider, according to B’Tselem. On October 29, media reported that Israel’s Military Advocate General (MAG) rejected the findings of an IDF inquiry that concluded a soldier did not deliberately shoot her. According to a New York Timesreport, an IDF sniper fired one round of live ammunition into a crowd including 14 white-coated medics, including al-Najjar, when no protesters in the immediate vicinity were conducting violent acts. According to the government, the circumstances of al-Najjar’s death were under investigation by the Military Police.
Gaza-based militant groups periodically conducted small arms attacks into Israel during the protests. In addition, from March 30 to December 5, Palestinian militant groups launched more than 1,150 rockets and mortars from the Gaza Strip indiscriminately toward civilian areas in Israel, as well as incendiary devices tied to kites and balloons that sparked nearly 2,000 fires and burned more than 5,600 acres of land in Israel, according to the government. More than 200 Israelis required treatment from these attacks, mostly for shock. Gaza-based militants shot and killed one Israeli soldier and a rocket launched by Gaza-based militant killed one Palestinian laborer in Ashkelon. On July 20, a Palestinian sniper shot and killed IDF Staff Sergeant Aviv Levi, an Israeli infantry soldier.
In August the Israeli military opened an investigation into the IDF shootings of two Palestinian minors in Gaza. According to an Israeli military statement, an initial probe suggested the soldiers who shot and killed 18-year-old Abed Nabi in March and 15-year-old Othman Hellis in July during Gaza border protests did not adhere to open-fire regulations.
Following multiple terrorist attacks by Palestinians in the West Bank in November and December, the IDF killed two Palestinian drivers and one minor passenger in three incidents in which IDF soldiers perceived attempts to ram vehicles into soldiers at checkpoints. According to B’Tselem, none of the three events were ramming attacks, and one of the adults and the minor passenger were shot in the back as their cars were driving away from checkpoints.
According to media reports, on October 28, an IDF drone strike killed three minors near the eastern Gaza perimeter fence. According to the IDF, the minors were planting an explosive device. The government stated it opened investigations into all deaths at the fence.
According to the government, Gaza-based militants, including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, al-Mujahideen Movement, and other militant factions launched more than 1150 rockets and mortars toward Israel. These attacks killed a Palestinian laborer in Ashkelon and injured an IDF soldier. According to NGOs, media, and the Israeli government, Gaza-based militants fired rockets from civilian locations toward civilian targets.
In response to the rocket, mortar and incendiary attacks, and attempts to infiltrate Israel through the fence, the IDF launched 865 strikes against targets in Gaza during the year, according to the IDF. Air strikes and tank shellings killed 27 Palestinians at least seven of whom were civilians not participating in hostilities, according to B’Tselem. Seventeen of those killed in air strikes were militants, according to the Israeli government. According to B’Tselem, the IDF killed two minors in Gaza on July 14 in a “roof knocking,” a tactic in which a low-explosive projectile is dropped on the roof of a building to warn residents to vacate ahead of a full air strike. B’Tselem released a report on December 19 alleging the IDF withheld aerial footage of the event showing the teenage boys sitting on the edge of the roof. On August 9, the IDF struck more than 150 targets in the Gaza Strip in response to more than 180 rockets and mortars fired by Gaza-based militants into Israel. One of the IDF airstrikes killed one-year-old Bayan Abu Khamash and his pregnant mother, 22-year-old Inas Abu Kahmas, while they were asleep at home in Deir al-Balah, Gaza.
There were reports of Gazan fishermen killed by Israeli and Egyptian authorities. According to the NGO Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Israeli soldiers on a naval vessel shot and killed an 18-year-old Gazan fisherman, Isma’il Saleh Abu Riyalah in February. On November 8, Egyptian naval forces allegedly shot and killed Gazan Mostafa Abu Audeh while he was fishing just off the coast of the Palestinian city of Rafah. According to press, the Egyptian military denied the reports.
In Gaza, according to PCHR, Hamas extrajudicially executed seven persons during the year and has issued 125 death sentences since 2007. At year’s end, there were 10 persons in Hamas prisons awaiting capital punishment. PCHR noted a significant increase in application of the death penalty in Gaza since 2007 and particularly in the last three years. By law the PA president must ratify each death penalty sentence, but Hamas proceeded with these executions without the PA president’s approval.
On May 8, Israeli authorities released IDF soldier Elor Azaria from a military prison after nine months’ incarceration for killing incapacitated Palestinian attacker, Abed al-Fatah al-Sharif, in Hebron in 2016. A military court found Azaria guilty of manslaughter in January 2017. IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot shortened Azaria’s sentence from 18 months to 14 months in September 2017. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin denied Azaria’s request for clemency in November 2017. The parole board approved releasing Azaria after completing two-thirds of his sentence, as is customary in Israel. According to media reports, Azaria’s punishment included demotion to the rank of private prior to his discharge from the IDF.
The sixth update of the MAG investigation into the 2014 Gaza war closed 88 more cases, bringing the total of alleged incidents closed without charges to 186 of 360. MAG previously brought charges against three soldiers for looting. The remaining investigations were ongoing or not mentioned. This update addressed the IDF application of the “Hannibal Directive,” which calls for overwhelming firepower when an enemy captures an IDF soldier to prevent use of the soldier as a hostage. A March State Comptroller report on the war criticized the Hannibal Directive–which the IDF replaced in 2017–for failing to mention distinction and proportionality, as well as for ambiguous wording that led to confusion about whether the IDF should risk killing its own soldier when attacking kidnappers to prevent a hostage situation. Human rights organizations criticized MAG for failing to find fault in hundreds of incidents that caused more than 1,000 Palestinian civilian deaths, and for focusing on actions by individual soldiers, who may have violated IDF rules or the law, rather than the conformity of IDF rules and policies with international law, including high-level orders regarding the use of force.