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The international community must hold Israel accountable

Palestinian Mohammed Tamimi poses for a picture at his home in the West Bank city of Ramallah on February 27, 2018. Tamimi, who was shot in the head with a rubber bullet leaving him with permanent damage to his skull, has been shot again. He is the cousin of Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi. Picture: Abbas Momani/AFP

Palestinian Mohammed Tamimi poses for a picture at his home in the West Bank city of Ramallah on February 27, 2018. Tamimi, who was shot in the head with a rubber bullet leaving him with permanent damage to his skull, has been shot again. He is the cousin of Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi. Picture: Abbas Momani/AFP

Published Jun 19, 2022

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By Zaheer Laher

For the Palestinians, the past five weeks have seen some of the worst violence exacted by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) on young people and journalists. Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh’s assassination was just one in a long string of killings that have been enacted with impunity.

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The world was shocked by the killing of Abu Akleh on May 11, and the subsequent attacks on mourners and pallbearers at her funeral. An investigation by CNN found that her killing was targeted and not accidental. New evidence shows that there was no active combat, nor any Palestinian militants near Abu Akleh in the moments leading up to her death.

Videos obtained by CNN, corroborated by testimony from eight witnesses, an audio forensic analyst and an explosive weapons expert, suggest that Abu Akleh was shot dead in a targeted attack by Israeli forces. Just three weeks after the killing of Abu Akleh, Palestinian journalist Ghoffran Warashah was shot in the chest and killed by the IDF on June 1 at the entrance of Arroub refugee camp north of Hebron. Israeli forces prevented medics from approaching her for 20 minutes.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh condemned Warashah’s killing, saying, “While the ICC has dispatched a 42-member team to probe war crimes in Ukraine within less than two months, it has not taken the initiative to do the same thing in Palestine in decades”.

Particularly shocking was the shooting in the head of 19-yearold Palestinian youth Mohammed Tamimi by a soldier in the IDF 10 days ago in the village of Nabi Saleh, North West of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

According to the Nabi Saleh village council, Tamimi was walking at 6pm in the east of the village to bring his 13-year-old brother back home. The area is close to an Israeli military watch tower at the entrance of the village.

While Tamimi was walking, Israeli soldiers began firing live and rubber bullets as well as tear gas canisters at youth in the vicinity, and Tamimi was shot in the forehead with a heavy metal bullet wrapped in a thin layer of sponge. His brother was shot in the arm. This is the second time that Tamimi has been shot in the head by an Israeli soldier in the IDF. He was brought to South Africa in 2018 at the age of 15 for reconstructive surgery by surgeons at the Sandton Mediclinic after he had been shot in the face at point-blank range by an Israeli soldier with a rubber-coated steel bullet.

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The bullet shattered the left side of his head, penetrating his brain, and he initially underwent surgery in Palestine. At the time, Tamimi had been playing football in his village when he had peered over a wall to catch a glimpse of Israeli soldiers on patrol and was shot.

Following reconstructive surgery in Sandton, Tamimi addressed a gathering at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation in Pretoria through an interpreter.

He spoke to South African youth around the country about his ordeal. His being shot in the head a second time, just three years later, is deplorable. Nabi Saleh has been a regular target of the Israeli occupation forces who have in the past shot at community protesters who demonstrate against the wall, daily human rights abuses and the confiscation of their land.

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Children of the village are regularly detained and tortured, often just for throwing stones. In the context of these continuing abuses, human rights defenders are consistently being targeted. In 2019, Israel expelled Omar Shakir, the Human Rights Watch director for Israel and Palestine, and has put pressure on Amnesty International.

In January this year, Israel called on Amnesty International not to publish its report accusing Israel of apartheid. Amnesty International joined Human Rights Watch and the Israeli rights group B’Tselem in accusing Israel of the international crime of apartheid based on its nearly 55-year military occupation of Palestinian lands, and because of its treatment of its own Arab minority.

Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory, has called on the international community to accept and adopt the findings in his current report which echoes recent findings by Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights organisations, that apartheid is being practised by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory.

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According to the report of the new UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory issued on June 7, the continued occupation by Israel of Palestinian territory and discrimination against Palestinians are the key root causes of the recurrent tensions, instability and protraction of conflict in the region.

The responsibility now rests with UN member states to take the necessary action, as was eventually done with apartheid South Africa. As the international community, we must not turn a blind eye to the persisting injustices Palestinians face under the illegal Israeli occupation.

We have a collective obligation to speak up and take action to ensure that Israel is held accountable for its violations of international law, international humanitarian and human rights law, including laws on the prohibition on the acquisition of territory by force.

Ultimately, the only way to bring about lasting peace is to have a comprehensive and unconditional negotiated settlement to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, and to find a solution that is premised on a just and lasting settlement with just laws that are rights-based, and which facilitates equality and equity for all who have a right to live in the territories of Israel and Palestine.

* Laher is the Department of International Relations and Cooperation Acting Chief Director for UN Political, Peace and Security

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