Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem released a report on Tuesday, condemning Israeli forces for the “unjustified” killing of a Palestinian woman in Jerusalem last week.
Israeli police said at the time that 49-year-old Siham Nimr attempted to stab police officers with a pair of scissors at the Damascus Gate entrance to occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City, only to be “neutralized” by the Israeli border police — a term commonly used by Israeli officials to indicate that an alleged attacker has either been wounded or killed. No Israeli officers were injured in the altercation.
It was later revealed that the slain woman was the mother of 27-year-old Mustafa Nimr, who was killed by Israeli forces in September during a night raid in occupied East Jerusalem’s Shufat refugee camp.
According to B’Tselem, after Siham approached a metal police barrier near Damascus Gate, brandishing a pair of scissors, border police officers standing on the other side of the barrier shot and killed her. Included in their report was a picture from a security camera in the area, released by Israeli police, purporting to show Siham holding up the scissors while standing behind the police barrier.
“It is quite doubtful whether Siham could have, in the circumstances, crossed the barrier, proceeded toward the officers and put them in danger,” B’Tselem said, adding that “given the officers’ protective gear and the means they had at their disposal, it stands to reason that they would have been able to subdue her and take her into custody without resorting to gunfire, let alone lethal gunfire.”
B’Tselem criticized the “shoot-to-kill policy” of Israeli forces when dealing with alleged and actual Palestinian attackers, saying that the policy is “encouraged” by senior ranking officials of various Israeli security forces.
Human Rights Watch has meanwhile documented “numerous statements” made by senior Israeli politicians and religious figures “calling on police and soldiers to shoot to kill suspected attackers, irrespective of whether lethal force is actually strictly necessary to protect life.”
Referring to both the death of Siham and Mustafa, B’Tselem said that “in both cases, the security forces’ trigger happy policies with regard to Palestinians have resulted in needless death.”
Mustafa and his cousin Ali had been driving near clashes outside of Shufat refugee camp while bringing home food and baby clothes, when Israeli border police showered the vehicle with live fire, Siham told Ma’an after the killing.
Israeli police initially claimed that Mustafa and Ali were attempting to carry out a car ramming attack on Israeli officers, though authorities later admitted that Mustafa was “killed by mistake,” and attempted to accuse Ali of causing his death by driving negligently, which prompted Israeli forces to open fire on the vehicle.
“B’Tselem has already repeatedly stated that shooting to kill is permissible only when the target puts others’ lives at risk. The continued policy of using lethal fire against Palestinians who pose no mortal danger attests to a chilling gap between the recognized and accepted principle that prohibits this use of gunfire, and a reality in which shoot-to-kill incidents are a frequent occurrence and are encouraged by public sentiment, even when suspects no longer poses any danger, if they ever even posed a serious threat in the first place” the report said.
According to Ma’an documentation, Nimr was the first woman to have been killed by Israeli forces since the beginning of the year.
A total of 16 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis — 15 of them at the hands of Israeli armed forces — so far in 2017.
Though Israeli forces have claimed that Palestinians were allegedly attempting to carry out stabbing attacks when they were killed in six of these cases, Palestinians and rights groups have disputed Israel’s version of events in a number of cases.