As a human rights organization dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), Al-Haq is gravely concerned by the killing of a Palestinian civilian in the Ramallah Governorate of the occupied West Bank on 9 May 2008.
After a thorough investigation, Al-Haq has found that on the afternoon of Friday 9 May 2008, five young Palestinian men and a 13-year-old boy set out to hunt birds in the hills of Deir Dibwan village, east of Ramallah city. Upon their arrival to the hills, they noticed a group of people, including young children, on an opposite hill, approximately 150 meters away. Based on testimony collected from the Palestinian men, they initially thought that this group was also Palestinian, and paid little attention to them.
After a few moments, however, a man from the opposite hill shouted at the Palestinian group in Hebrew. This startled the Palestinian men, who realized that the other group were Israeli settlers, most likely from one of the illegal settlements of Ofra or Beit El, each approximately five kilometers away from the scene. They then noticed one of the Israeli men kneeling to take aim at them, followed by a single shot without warning. Twenty-year-old Rashad Khader called at the settler not to fire, but was answered by a barrage of bullets. The Palestinians turned to flee, but three bullets hit Khader in the back as he tried to run away. One Palestinian man remained with Khader, the others having fled the scene. An hour later, medics arrived at the scene and declared Rashad Khader dead. The man who had remained with Khader was arrested by Israeli occupying forces, who had also arrived on the scene, and is currently in detention in Ofar prison near Ramallah, without charge.
The Israeli settlers have admitted to the killing of Rashad Khader, claiming that they were fired upon by the group of Palestinians, and fired back in response. Sworn affidavits collected from eyewitnesses indicate that the Palestinians did not fire at the settlers, nor were they in possession of anything more than a pair of simple bird-hunting rifles. Furthermore, the fact that the victim was repeatedly shot from behind indicates the lack of threat he presented, as well as the settler’s intent to kill. Al-Haq is deeply concerned by the Israeli authorities’ seemingly blind acceptance of the settlers’ account of the events and calls for a full investigation into the killing of Rashad Khader, and the prosecution of those responsible.
Unfortunately, the systematic failure of the Israeli authorities to investigate and punish illegal actions carried out in the past by settlers against Palestinians has paved the way for unprovoked and unjustified killings such as that of Rashad Khader. Incidents of violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians are rarely investigated and the perpetrators seldom held to account, creating an atmosphere of absolute impunity in which excessive (and in this case lethal) violence is common practice. As such, the Israeli occupying authorities are effectively sanctioning acts of settler violence against Palestinians, despite Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law to safeguard the rights of the protected Palestinian civilian population under its control.
Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank continues unabated in contravention of Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention and numerous binding UN Security Council Resolutions, and in spite of commitments made in the context of the “peace” process. This policy is accompanied by an apparently inherent propensity on the part of some Israeli settlers to attack and abuse Palestinian civilians and villages in their vicinity, and is impossible to reconcile with Palestinians’ enjoyment of the rights and protections guaranteed by international law. With this in mind, Al-Haq calls upon:
- The relevant authority, namely the Chief of the Investigations Department of the Israeli Police, to order a full, independent and transparent investigation into the killing of Rashad Khader, and to bring those responsible before the full process of the law.
- The Israeli authorities to rigorously investigate all instances of settler violence committed against Palestinians and their property, and to provide effective remedy, including access to justice and reparation such as restitution, guarantee of non-repetition and compensation.
- The international community to exercise sustained diplomatic pressure on the Israeli government to freeze all settlement activity and dismantle all established settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.