A new report “Trigger-happy”, by Amnesty International identifies a pattern of behaviour by Israeli soldiers of shooting live ammunition at unarmed Palestinians, sometimes as they are fleeing. Over the past three years, dozens of Palestinians have been shot dead in the West Bank and hundreds seriously wounded. Thousands more have sustained injuries from rubber-coated bullets and tear gas.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has been much criticised in Israel, as well as abroad, for failing to present his own diplomatic initiative on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to forestall US intervention. Mr Netanyahu may have huffed and puffed before giving voice to the phrase “two states for two peoples” at Sunday’s cabinet meeting, but the contours of just such a Palestinian state – or states – have been emerging undisturbed for some time.
The sun is sinking fast behind the trees of an olive grove on the outskirts of the West Bank village of Nilin. After a day of confrontations between the Israeli army and the Palestinian villagers over Israel’s building of its separation wall on Nilin’s land, the soldiers appear finally to have gone. Overlooked by the homes of the neighbouring Jewish settlement of Hashmonaim, a handful of Nilin’s braver teenagers finally come out to work. Jamal and Abed are sweating from their efforts to beat both nightfall and the return of the army.
The window through which Salam Amira, 16, filmed the moment when an Israeli soldier shot from close range a handcuffed and blindfolded Palestinian detainee has a large hole at its centre with cracks running in every direction. “Since my video was shown, the soldiers shoot at our house all the time,” she said. The shattered and cracked windows at the front of the building confirm her story. “When we leave the windows open, they fire tear gas inside too.” Her home looks out over the Israeli road block guarding the only entrance to the village of Nilin.