Opposition lawmaker hits at army's use of force

Share this article

AN ISRAELI opposition lawmaker, spurred by the shooting of a young British "human shield", yesterday demanded an inquiry into the Israeli army’s use of force in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The call by Yuli Tamir, a former minister, marks some of the harshest criticism Israeli forces have faced from a mainstream politician since the current confrontation with the Palestinians began more than two years ago. Ms Tamir said the shooting of Thomas Hundall, 21, who worked as a human shield for Palestinians in Rafah Refugee Camp, combined with other force used against foreign volunteers, "shows that something is terribly wrong".

Before, when the army received complaints about shootings of Palestinian children, it dismissed them by saying they were throwing stones, she said. "But foreign observers do not fall into this category," she said. "You cannot say that they are suspected fighters."

A spokesman for the defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, did not respond to a query about Ms Tamir’s criticism. But the army chief of staff, Moshe Yaalon, has said repeatedly said that every incident in which an "innocent person" is killed is personally investigated by him.

An army source quoted by the AFP news agency said yesterday that at about the same time Mr Hundall was shot, a Palestinian dressed in combat uniform had opened fire on an army watchtower in Rafah camp, and been killed by army fire. Palestinians said that no body of a fighter was found.

Last week a United States volunteer, Barry Avery, was wounded by army gunfire and a month ago, a bulldozer killed a US student, Rachel Corey.

All three were volunteering for the Palestinian-led International Solidarity Organisation, which says its mission is to protect civilians from the Israeli army in the absence of governmental intervention. Mr Hundall is in critical condition at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba.

"The fact that these people come here for a good cause and are harmed bothers people," Ms Tamir said. She said the army has proved incapable of investigating itself, and called for a panel of reservist soldiers and military policemen that would not be under Mr Yaalon.

As of 9 April, a total of 1,934 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli security forces , according to the Israeli human rights group B’tselem. Seven hundred Israelis, most of them civilians, including 63 minors, were killed during the same period by Palestinians.