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'5-year high' in number of Palestinians killed in West Bank

Dec. 31, 2013 2:16 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 2, 2014 9:10 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel killed 27 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank in 2013, making it the deadliest year for Palestinian fatalities since 2008, Israeli rights group B'Tselem said Monday.

According to data compiled by the rights group, three times as many Palestinians were killed in the West Bank in 2013 compared to 2012.

By contrast, in 2012 Israeli security forces killed eight Palestinians in the West Bank and 246 in the Gaza Strip, including at least 167 in its November war on the coastal territory.

In nine of the 2013 West Bank killings, Israeli military forces raided Palestinian communities during arrest operations.

Four of those killings involved an exchange of fire, according to Israel's army, while four other cases involved Israeli soldiers opening fire after stones had been thrown at them.

Seven other killings took place while Israeli soldiers were lying in wait to capture alleged stone throwers or after Israeli soldiers had used live fire against Palestinians throwing stones.

One Palestinian was killed when he tried to enter Israel without a permit, one female bystander was shot dead by soldiers, another man was killed after breaking into a military base with a tractor and one man was shot after allegedly assaulting a border police officer.

In the final case, the Israeli border police volunteer retracted his original claim that Antar Shalabi Mahmoud al-Aqraa had tried to stab him before being shot dead.

In the Gaza Strip, nine Palestinians were killed, four of whom were allegedly taking part in hostilities when they were killed and three who were not, B'Tselem said.

In one case the group said it is unknown if the victim was taking part in hostilities. Another Palestinian was assassinated by Israeli forces.

Three-year-old Hala Abu Sbeikha was killed last Tuesday in Gaza following an Israeli airstrike.

Investigations into killings 'slow and cumbersome'

B'Tselem says that over two years have passed since a new investigative policy by the MAG Corps unit went into effect, in which time 35 Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers.

A total of 23 investigations into the fatalities were launched, with the MAG corps reaching a decision on only five of the cases.

In one case, a decision was made not to open an investigation, in three cases the file was closed, and in another an Israeli soldier was indicted and convicted by plea bargain based on his admission, B'Tselem said.

"The sharp rise in fatalities in the West Bank only serves to intensify concern about lack of accountability. Admittedly, MPIU investigations are now launched almost automatically, yet the essence of the investigative mechanism remains unchanged," B'Tselem Director Jessica Montell said.

"It is slow and cumbersome and decisions are made only years after an incident takes place. Such a mechanism, in which practically no one is held accountable for the killing of Palestinians, does not serve as a deterrent and indicates disregard for human life."
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