Israeli soldiers in Halhul and across the occupied West Bank have employed excessive force in past weeks. (ActiveStills)
Ramallah, July 2, 2014—On Monday, June 30, the Israeli government announced that the bodies of three Israeli teens, Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, had been found. The youths, who were reported missing over two weeks ago, were likely shot shortly after their abduction.
“The deaths of these three teens serve to highlight the terrible consequences of the Israeli occupation for both sides,” said Rifat Kassis, executive director of DCI-Palestine. “The occupation and the cycle of violence must end to ensure that there is no further loss of innocent life, either Palestinian or Israeli. Violence and military escalation will only inflict further suffering on innocent civilians.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds Hamas responsible for the abduction and killing of the teens without producing concrete evidence. Hamas, for its part, denies responsibility for their deaths. Within 12 hours of announcing the discovery, cross-border violence had rapidly escalated. According to Haaretz, the Israeli Air Force struck 34 targets in Gaza on Monday evening, while rockets fired by Palestinian armed groups landed in Southern Israel.
The abduction and murder of the three settler teens can never be justified, but the Israeli response is equally unjustifiable. Since the abduction of the teenagers, a total of nine Palestinian civilians have been killed by Israeli forces during the search operation, while more than 500 have been arrested, according to news reports. One child, 15-year-old Mohammad Dudeen, was among the dead.
The excessive force employed by the Israeli military in past weeks has amounted to collective punishment of the Palestinian civilian population as a whole, with West Bank homes raided, freedom of movement severely restricted and deaths and injuries rising as residents clash with soldiers.
In 2014 alone, the use of excessive force by the Israeli military lead to the deaths of six Palestinian children in the West Bank.
International humanitarian law provides specific protections for civilians, including children, and requires that parties to an armed conflict refrain from targeting civilians. The response to the killing of the three teens must not be the deliberate targeting of Palestinian civilians.
Israeli officials have also called for a new wave of settlement construction in the occupied West Bank in memory of the teens. According to international law, Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and transfer of civilians to occupied territory are illegal.
DCI-Palestine calls upon Israeli authorities to end its policy of collective punishment, and for all parties to ensure that no more children pay the price for armed conflict.