by Conal Urquhart
Israeli military prosecutors have opened criminal investigations following allegations by soldiers that they carried out illegal shoot-to-kill orders against unarmed Palestinians.
The 17 separate investigations were prompted by the testimony of dozens of troops collected by Breaking the Silence, a pressure group of former Israeli soldiers committed to exposing human rights abuses by the military in suppressing the Palestinian intifada. The investigations cover a range of allegations, including misuse of weapons and other misuses of power.
Some of the soldiers, who also spoke to the Guardian, say they acted on standing orders in some parts of the Palestinian territories to open fire on people regardless of whether they were armed or not, or posed any physical threat.
The soldiers say that in some situations they were ordered to shoot anyone who appeared on a roof or a balcony, anyone who appeared to be kneeling to the ground or anyone who appeared on the street at a designated time. Among those killed by soldiers acting on the orders were young children.
While the background to the soldiers’ experience is the armed conflict that has been going on in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since October 2000, many of the shootings occurred in periods of calm when there was no immediate risk to the soldiers involved.
Yehuda Shaul, the co-founder of Breaking the Silence, said it aimed to show that individual soldiers were not to blame for killings of innocent Palestinians. “It is the situation which is to blame and that is created by military and political leaders, not the soldiers on the ground,” he said.
The testimonies shed light on how around 1,700 Palestinian civilians have been killed during the second intifada.