It is becoming harder to listen to Army spokespersonsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ accounts of incidents that include the killing of local Palestinians, especially when the killings take place in a clash with stone-throwing youths.
In explaining its killing on Sunday night of 31 year old, wheelchair-bound Arafat Yakub of Qalandiya refugee camp, a military source reported that Ã¢â‚¬Å“troops tried to disperse a violent protest in the area, which was disrupting repair work at the Atarot Airport. Troops fired warning shots, which hit the wheelchair-bound Palestinian.Ã¢â‚¬Â The source added that the Army is investigating the incident.
Local Palestinian sources reported that troops fired live ammunition towards the group of youth in a stone-throwing clash in the area, striking Arafat Ibrahim Yakub, who was wounded in the first Intifada and had been confined to a wheelchair since 1987.
Both sides confirmed a clash between stone throwers and soldiers near Qalandiya military check post. The debate is around shooting regulations.
In a riot situation, soldiers can disperse demonstrators in different ways, including firing warning shots in the air, but the human rights norms in similar situations forbid soldiers firing towards a crowd of people unless they are in a life-threatening situation.
Knowing the topography and conditions of the clashing site, it is beyond imagination that soldiers were under such a threat.
Qalandiya refugee camp is across the main road from Atarot Airport. A fence and a six-meters-high cement wall separate them. Soldiers are stationed at a hilly area while protesters are in a plains area. Army snipers are stationed at points overlooking the plains area.
When the Army talks about Ã¢â‚¬Å“warningÃ¢â‚¬Â shots, one imagines them firing up at the sky or at least above the heads of demonstrators. How would that explain hitting a wheelchair-bound person who is very unlikely to have participated in stone throwing?
In similar situations where the Army was under pressure to investigate, it has had to retreat from earlier statements used as cover for soldiersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ performance. For example, in the case of the British peace activist Tom Hurandall, who was shot dead by soldiers as he attempted to move two Palestinian children away from the Army fire line, an official Army statement accused Hurandall of being armed and shooting at soldiers. Later, the Army backed away from its first statement and announced it had killed an armed Palestinian at the site. Finally, a soldier had to admit shooting Ã¢â‚¬Å“without any provocationÃ¢â‚¬Â for deterrence purposes.
To conclude, stating that the Army is investigating the killing of the 31 year old wheelchair-bound Palestinian Arafat Yakub is not sufficient. The huge number of innocent, non-engaged Palestinians killed during the recent crisis should be dealt with seriously.
Until the unnecessary killings are treated as crimes and are stopped, a river of innocent blood will block the path of any peace efforts or future reconciliation.