The Military Police has opened investigations into the circumstances of the deaths of at least 18 Palestinians in the West Bank in the last two years, but has completed only three of these probes. In only one case was an Israeli soldier charged and convicted.
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In that case, a combat soldier in the Home Front Command was convicted in March 2013, in a plea bargain, of negligent manslaughter in the death of Uday Darwish, a young Palestinian man who was shot to death while trying to enter Israel illegally near a gap in the separation fence in order to work in Israel. The soldier was sentenced to seven months in military prison. His company commander was given a hearing, a decision which is expected later this week. In two additional incidents, the investigations were closed by the Military Advocate General without any charges filed. The first of those incidents involved the shooting deaths of Amer Nassar, 17, and Naji Belbisi, 18, by soldiers in the Haredi Nahal Brigade in April 2013, after Molotov cocktails had been thrown at a nearby guard post. The investigation determined that the shootings were justified and the soldiers had complied with the rules of engagement of the Israel Defense Forces.
In the second incident, in which Hamdi Fallah was killed in the area of the Halhul-Hebron bridge in November 2012, after pointing a laser pen at the soldiers in the course of clashes with them, the investigation was also closed without an indictment.
Since 2011 the Military Police have been under orders to investigate all Palestinian deaths in the West Bank with the exception of those that occurred in the course of “actual combat.” In six of the 18 known deaths in the past two years, this was the reason given for the decision not to investigate.
Of the 18 cases, five are thought to be nearing a verdict. These include the fatal shootings of a 21-year-old Bethlehem woman, Lubna Hanash, in January 2013, and that of Robin Zayed, an employee of the UN Relief and Works Agency, during clashes in the Qalandiyah refugee camp in August 2013.
“The Military Police investigates dozens of operational events every year, including those involving the death of Palestinians,” the IDF Spokesman’s Unit said in a response, adding that these investigations were considered top priority and were carried out by specially trained investigators. The statement confirmed that investigations had been opened into 18 fatal incidents in the West Bank caused by IDF fire since May 2012, that in one case a soldier was charged and convicted of negligent homicide and two cases had been closed. In addition, the statement said, “Five additional cases are being evaluated by MAG [the Military Advocate General] and 10 more are being investigated by the Military Police,” after having been returned by MAG with a request for further investigation.