Monday, June 09, 2014

In a  move that surprises no one, Human Rights Watch has released a report on the Beitunia shootings that uncritically reports every anti-Israel claim and ignores everything that is self-contradictory:

Video footage, photographs, witness statements, and medical records indicate that two 17-year-old boys whom Israeli forces shot and killed on May 15, 2014 posed no imminent threat to the forces at the time. The boys, who had been participating in a demonstration in the West Bank, were apparently shot with live ammunition, Human Rights Watch said.

Video footage clearly shows Israeli soldiers firing in the direction of the boys, Nadim Nawareh and Mohammed Salameh, and the boys falling to the ground. Medical records indicate that the two boys, as well as 15-year-old, Mohammed Azza, whom Israeli forces also shot and seriously wounded, suffered wounds to the chest caused by live ammunition. Nawareh and Salameh were shot right through the chest. Witnesses told Human Rights Watch they heard the sound of live ammunition being fired, quite distinct from the sound of rubber bullet fire, at the time the three boys were shot.

“The willful killing of civilians by Israeli security forces as part of the occupation is a war crime,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director. “Israel has a responsibility to prosecute the forces who targeted these teens, and also those responsible for assigning the use of live ammunition to police a demonstration.”

The Israeli military stated that it is investigating the killings but that its forces “did not use live fire,” only rubber bullets and teargas. However, rubber bullets are specifically designed not to penetrate bodies. It is highly unlikely that, at a range of at least 60 meters, rubber bullets would have caused the injuries that killed Nawareh and Salameh and wounded Azza. Nawareh’s family retrieved what may be the live bullet that killed him.

Offenses committed by Israeli security forces as part of the occupation, such as deliberate attacks on civilians, would be subject to prosecution under international humanitarian law as war crimes. Israeli forces have repeatedly shot Palestinians who posed no imminent threat with live ammunition during similar protests, including at an April 4 demonstration in the same location, and the Israeli military has a poor record of bringing soldiers to justice for such acts, Human Rights Watch said.

The boys were shot in three separate incidents but in virtually the same location in the town of Beitunia, where Palestinians had earlier held a demonstration to commemorate “Naqba Day,” which marks the expulsion of Palestinians from present-day Israel from 1947 to 1949. After the demonstration, there was a violent confrontation during which Israeli forces fired rubber bullets, live ammunition, and tear gas at Palestinians who threw rocks at the forces.

A photojournalist taking pictures at the time, Samer Nazzal, told Human Rights Watch that Israeli forces shot rubber bullets at a group of Palestinians who gathered to carry Nawareh away. Human Rights Watch viewed a series of Nazzal’s high-shutter-speed photographs taken immediately after Nawareh was shot that show a projectile, apparently a rubber bullet, coming from the direction of the Israeli forces. It struck the head of a Palestinian medic, who was wearing a bright orange vest and was part of the group carrying Nawareh.

The Israeli rights group B’Tselem reported that Israeli occupation forces also shot and wounded a 23-year-old man in the arm that day with live ammunition.

...Witness statements, medical reports, security camera videos, news media videos and photographs by journalists, which Human Rights Watch viewed, indicate that Israeli forces fired live ammunition.
As we have shown conclusively, at least Nadeem Nawarah's fall to the ground was accompanied by what was undoubtedly the firing of a rubber bullet.

Nazzal and the other "eyewitnesses" are lying.

Nazzal, 28, a photographer and journalist for Raya news, told Human Rights Watch that he arrived at the scene at around 1:30 p.m., after the clashes had started. He later heard Israeli forces fire both rubber bullets and live ammunition. Witnesses at demonstrations, as well as Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights monitors, have repeatedly confirmed that the sound of live fire is easily distinguished from the sound of the type of rubber bullets used by the Israeli Defense Forces. Nazzal said:

There were seven or eight soldiers on foot in an elevated area, behind a concrete wall and fence, about 60 meters away. There were also a lot of [military vehicles] about 200 meters away from us. There were dozens of protesters, most of them doing nothing but watching, and about 20 others were throwing rocks. Two or three of them would run forward and throw rocks at a time, but because the soldiers were in an elevated place and shielded, none of the rocks seemed to actually hit them. They were shooting tear gas and rubber bullets constantly, and once in a while we would hear live ammunition.

I started taking photos of the clashes as soon as I got there. Nadim [Nawareh] decided to cross the street. At that time he wasn’t throwing rocks; he was just crossing the street. As soon as he was in the middle of the street he was shot straight in the chest. I saw it. I was just 15 meters away from him. I heard the bullet, and he dropped to the ground and didn’t move.

Zayed, the store owner, and Abbas Mamoni, another journalist, corroborated Nazzal’s account.

Nazzal took a rapid series of photographs that show a projectile flying toward the group evacuating Nawareh, and apparently striking the head of a man wearing a medic’s fluorescent vest. The man stumbles and holds his head in subsequent images.

This photograph, if accurate, exactly corresponds with the second gunshot sound in the CNN video, a sound identical to the first one that corresponds to Nawarah's fall. If the sound of a rubber bullet is so easily distinguishable from that of live fire - and it is - then the two shots were of the same type and Nawara was not hit by live fire.

HRW pretends to look at the inconsistencies but dismisses them with what can only be described as a wild conspiracy theory: (There are links in HRW's report that do not go anywhere, and there are no links to the description of the rifle.)

Some commentators and news reports have incorrectly stated that the CNN footage could not show Israeli forces shooting live ammunition because the assault rifles seen in the footage have attachments that are used to fire rubber bullets. However, the Israeli military has used at least one type of assault-rifle attachment, produced by Israel Military Industries, that allows forces to fire rubber bullets, but also to fire live ammunition without removing the attachment. A brochure states that the 22-centimeter-long “launcher” can be “attached to any rifle with NATO flash suppressor” and allows “immediate 5.56-mm lethal firing capability without removing adapter.”

Human Rights Watch could not determine whether the gunshot in the video fired a live round or a rubber bullet, or to rule out the possibility that Nawareh might have been killed by another gunshot that the video did not record.
The gunshot in the CNN video was accompanied by the appearance of a paper wad (you need to go frame by frame to see it) that accompanies many but not all rubber bullet firings, but do not correspond with live fire. In addition, the sound of a live fire round even from such a rifle would sound different, as HRW emphasizes. So HRW prefers a conspiracy theory involving several layers of IDF command over the clear evidence from the CNN video and photographs that HRW relies upon.

HRW's presentation of the facts here simply do not jive with the reality of the videos and the photos. The organization casts no doubt on the supposed bullet that Nawara's family has shown to the media that could not possibly have passed through a human body as an  expert showed. And it is credulous regarding "eyewitnesses" who are known to lie.

But HRW isn't interested in discovering the truth - it is interested in damning Israel.

(h/t Gidon)

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