The Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem has requested a criminal investigation into the deaths of four wanted Palestinian militants in Bethlehem on March 12, saying that the deaths during the Israel Defense Forces raid appeared to have been an execution.

In a letter to the attorney general and the IDF Military Advocate General, the group says that its own investigation raised serious suspicions that the wanted men had not been killed during an exchange of fire or while trying to escape, as intimated by the IDF.

B'Tselem said that if the men were in fact executed, the IDF is guilty of severely violating a High Court ruling stating that the state is prohibited from intentionally killing Palestinians if less harmful means of maintaining security are available, meaning arrest and due process.

In a letter addressed to the attorney general and to MAG, the organization demanded that the investigation into the incident focus on the culpability of the IDF commanders who orchestrated the Bethlehem arrest raid, including the Chief of Staff.

B'Tselem also maintained that their probe revealed that not only were the four victims needlessly executed, the troops also continued to shoot to ensure that they were dead. The rights group's letter stated that once three of the men who were sitting in a parked vehicle had been shot to death, an IDF man approached the car and shot each of them again at close range. This man also shot the driver, who was lying wounded and unarmed outside the car, the letter said.