A License to Kill

Israeli Undercover Operations Against “Wanted” and Masked Palestinians

Undercover units of the Israeli army have been responsible for over 120 killings in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1988. Many of the victims were shot while posing no serious imminent threat to soldiers or others. Through interviews with soldiers, court transcripts, analysis of the open-fire regulations and seventeen case studies from 1992-1993, we charge in A License to Kill that unjustified killings by undercover units are not aberrations; rather they constitute a pattern that could only continue with the complicity of the Israeli government. That pattern has continued during Yitzhak Rabin’s first year as prime minister. The officially stated mission of these units, whose members frequently disguise themselves as Palestinians, is to apprehend armed fugitives "with blood on their hands." In fact, many of the Palestinians killed by the undercover units are youths who are neither "wanted" nor carrying firearms, and who are shot when they are posing no immediate danger to the lives of others. We contend that Israeli soldiers who participate in the search for "wanted" and masked activists routinely violate both international norms governing the use of lethal force as well as the rules of engagement that the Israeli army professes to apply in the occupied territories. In fact, a parallel, officially denied set of open-fire regulations seems to have come into being that gives these soldiers permission to kill with virtual impunity.