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Israel opens inquiry over West Bank casualties

Israel opens inquiry over West Bank casualties

Israel's Justice Ministry has opened a criminal investigation into the firing of tear gas shells in the West Bank that killed a Palestinian demonstrator and seriously wounded an American in recent weeks, an official said Tuesday.
The casualties resulted from clashes at the West Bank village of Naalin, where Palestinian and international activists regularly protest against the construction of Israel's separation barrier, which cuts across village land.
The weekly Friday demonstrations often escalate into violent confrontations with Israeli forces.
During such a demonstration last month, a Palestinian man was killed when a tear gas canister hit him in the chest. And in March, Tristan Anderson, 38, from Oakland, California, was seriously injured when he was struck in the head by a tear gas canister fired by paramilitary border police.
Deputy state prosecutor Yehoshua Lamberger said in a statement Tuesday that it appeared police officers made "illegal use" of the weapons during the protests, firing the tear gas shells directly at the protesters. The shells are designed to be non-lethal when used properly, he said.
The statement also said four other cases that occurred before the Palestinian was killed are now being investigated, and criminal inquiries have been opened against police officers involved in those cases.
"The number of injuries caused by firing tear gas grenades raise the suspicion of illegal use of crowd dispersal munitions," Lamberger said. "Intentionally shooting at protesters is forbidden."
In his statement, Lamberger also said the Justice Ministry called on the police to review and reinforce its own rules about use of non-lethal means to disperse demonstrations.
The military, which is in overall command of forces in the West Bank, said Tuesday its crowd dispersal methods are legal.
"There are rules governing the use of such means, and the rules have been refined as a result of recent events," according to a military statement.
The military did not immediately clarify what it meant in saying the rules were refined.
Israel says the separation barrier is needed to stop Palestinian militants from carrying out suicide bombings and other attacks in Israel. Palestinians call it a land grab because it cuts across their villages and fields in some areas. A series of Israeli Supreme Court rulings has forced the government to reroute the barrier closer to the cease-fire line that separates the West Bank from Israel.


Updated : 2021-04-22 02:18 GMT+08:00