Human Rights Watch conducted a fact-finding investigation into the unlawful use of force against civilians by security and police forces in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, from October 4 through October 11. The organization found a pattern of repeated Israeli use of excessive lethal force during clashes between its security forces and Palestinian demonstrators in situations where demonstrators were unarmed and posed no threat of death or serious injury to the security forces or to others. In cases that Human Rights Watch investigated where gunfire by Palestinian security forces or armed protesters was a factor, use of lethal force by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) was indiscriminate and not directed at the source of the threat, in violation of international law enforcement standards. In Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, the IDF regularly used rubber bullets and plastic-coated metal bullets as well as live ammunition in an excessive or indiscriminate manner. A particularly egregious example of such unlawful fire is the IDF's use of medium-caliber bullets against unarmed demonstrators in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and in some instances, such as the Netzarim Junction in the Gaza Strip, against medical personnel. These military weapons, which inflict massive trauma when striking flesh, are normally used to penetrate concrete and are not appropriate for crowd control.
Human Rights Watch also documented a pattern of IDF disregard for and targeting of Palestinian medical personnel and ambulances evacuating or treating injured civilians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) provides medical services. To date, one PRCS emergency medical technician has been killed by IDF fire, and ten injured. The use of live fire against medical personnel interferes with the prompt treatment of wounded, and may in some instances have resulted in additional deaths.
In addition to the pattern of IDF attacks on ambulances and medical personnel, Human Rights Watch also noted a disturbing trend of increased Palestinian and Israeli civilian attacks on ambulances and medical personnel.
The attacks Human Rights Watch investigated all took place in areas under Israeli IDF or police control, and therefore areas where Israeli security services bear the primary responsibility for law enforcement. We note, however, that in a number of instances in the West Bank and Gaza Strip Palestinian Authority security forces were also present in areas where clashes took place. In several cases these personnel failed in their law enforcement duties to prevent armed Palestinians from firing on the IDF from positions where civilians were present and thus endangered by the Israeli response. In other such circumstances Palestinian security personnel themselves opened fire. Human Rights Watch's findings that the Israeli security services have been responsible for the majority of serious human rights violations does not excuse the Palestinian security services' failure to consistently and fully uphold its law enforcement duty to protect civilian lives.