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When non-lethal becomes lethal: Israeli “suspect apprehension procedures”

Jerusalem24 – A report released by B’Tselem on Sunday highlights so-called “suspect apprehension procedures”, a deadly practice of the Israeli military that has resulted in the death of six Palestinians so far in 2022, as well as one Israeli soldier.

Suspect apprehension procedures are supposed to entail non-lethal shooting of a suspect in the lower limbs, in order to disable them and apprehend them.

However, the B’Tselem report finds that this requirement is rarely adhered to in the cases it identified where the “suspect apprehension procedure” was invoked as a reason for shooting and killing the six Palestinians as well as the Israeli soldier.

B’Tselem case study of 20-year-old Rafiq Ghannam, who was shot and killed on 6 July under “suspect apprehension procedures”:

On Wednesday, 6 July 2022, at around 2:00 A.M., several dozen soldiers entered the village of Jaba’, south of Jenin. They entered the home of Muhammad Hamamrah, who was not present at the time, and searched it. At around 2:30 A.M., a neighbor of the family, Rafiq Ghannam (20), left his house. According to his brother Muhammad (25), he went out to the street following the soldiers’ arrival in the neighborhood, holding nothing but his cell phone.

According to the military, “the force intimated a suspect apprehension procedure, which included opening fire at a suspect who fled from a building, and detected an injury to the suspect. The force provided medical aid to the suspect, but he was later pronounced dead. The circumstances of the case are under review.”

The military’s statement does not clarify why the soldiers shot and killed Ghannam and what, if anything, were the suspicions against him. What is clear from the statement is that the soldiers were not in any danger, so there was certainly no justification for killing him. In any case, the act cannot be justified even according to the military’s logic, as suspect apprehension procedures are supposed to end with shooting at the legs, yet Ghannam was shot in the shoulder and the bullet exited his chest.

Source: B’Tselem, ‘”Suspect” arrest procedure: Rafiq Ghannam (20) shot and killed although he endangered no one’, 28 August 2022

Another five Palestinians – 16-year-old Mohammad Abdallah Hamed, 18-year-old ‘Ammar Abu ‘Afifah, 27-year-old Mahmoud ‘Aram, 44-year-old Ghadah Hassan, and 59-year-old Hussein Qawariq – have been killed in 2022 in what has been retroactively defined as “suspect apprehension procedures.”

According to B’Tselem, none of the persons killed posed a risk to the soldiers’ lives. In all but one of the cases, they were shot in the upper body, neck, or head, as opposed to in the legs as per “suspect apprehension procedures.” Ghadah Hassan, who was shot in the hip, was left to bleed out on the ground and died soon afterwards.

Earlier this month on 15 August, Nathan Fitoussi, an Israeli soldier who was returning to his post at nighttime near the separation wall in Tulkarem in the occupied West Bank was shot and killed by his fellow soldier in a case of mistaken identity, and in what the soldier explained as a “suspect apprehension procedure” which he said he carried out because he felt threatened.

The soldier’s case captured broad public and media attention in Israel and abroad.

“Six killings over the course of six months, as a result of what is officially defined “suspect apprehension procedure,” reveal yet again how cheap Palestinian lives are to Israel,” concludes the report. “These cases are neither exceptions nor the result of soldiers breaching regulations. They are the result of implementing a lethal, unlawful open-fire policy fully backed by Israel’s top political and military officials and approved by its legal advisors.”

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