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B'Tselem: 'Non-lethal' crowd control methods kill 4 since January

Oct. 8, 2015 10:53 A.M. (Updated: Oct. 8, 2015 2:57 P.M.)
Israeli soldiers stand in front of Palestinians during clashes in Bethlehem after the funeral of a 13-year-old on Oct. 6, 2015. (AFP/Thomas Coex)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The use of 0.22 bullets -- portrayed by Israeli authorities as a non-lethal means for dealing with "disturbances" -- has resulted in the death of four Palestinians since January 2015, Israeli rights group B'Tselem said Wednesday.

The bullets are fired regularly by snipers at Palestinians throughout the West Bank during demonstrations and were recently approved for use against stone-throwers in occupied East Jerusalem.

B'Tselem made the statement following an investigation into the death of 13-year-old Abed al-Rahman Shadi Obeidallah, killed Oct. 5,  that revealed that the child was shot by a 0.22 caliber bullet.

The boy was shot in the chest during clashes with Israeli soldiers and marked the most recent death of several documented by the rights group, which condemned the fatal shooting as a sign of steadily eroding restrictions on the use of live fire in non life-threatening circumstances.

"If the sniper’s version of yesterday’s events is indeed correct, namely -- that despite being armed with a weapon with telescopic sights and firing in broad daylight, he missed the mark and inadvertently hit a 13-year-old boy, the incident merely serves to underscore even further the danger this weapon poses," B'Tselem said.

The rights group has long cautioned: "The reality on the ground contradicts the military’s official statements that the use of this weapon is regulated and restricted."

The bullets are indisputably lethal, B'Tselem says, despite the fact that "Israeli authorities falsely present" the use of 0.22 caliber bullets as a "reasonable tool to employ in dealing with demonstrations."

In September, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu "declared war" on stone throwers and expanded the use of the lethal weapon.

"The security cabinet has decided to authorize police to use live ammunition against people throwing stones and Molotov cocktails when the life of a third person is threatened and no longer only when the police officer is threatened," the PM's office said.

Critics of the move question whether the law will be equally implemented for both Palestinians and Israeli Jews.

PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat described the measures at the time as "a mere pretext to justify the escalating Israeli crimes against the people of Palestine."

Arguing the new law expands ability for Israeli forces to target Palestinians, Erekat said: "The Israeli government continues to incite against Palestinian lives, with a culture of hate that dehumanizes a whole nation."
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