A Human Rights Watch (HRW) researcher wearing a Press vest was shot and wounded along with seven Palestinian protesters by Israeli security forces in the occupied West Bank. HRW says the shooting was unprovoked, as protesters posed “no imminent threat.”
The female research assistant, whose name has not been disclosed, was looking into the recent escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. She was attending the demonstration to observe the behavior of both the Palestinian protesters and Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) during the standoff.
The woman was also taking pictures and had the word “PRESS” clearly displayed on her clothes at the time of the shooting. The protest took place on October 6 outside of Ramallah, located in the West Bank.
The demonstration, with up to 200 protesters including families and young people in attendance, was reportedly peaceful at the time the research assistant was shot. HRW noted that Palestinians had thrown stones and Israeli soldiers had fired some live rounds of ammunition earlier in the evening.
The HRW employee was hit by two rubber-coated steel bullets. One hit her in the back and the other deflected off her torso, injuring her jaw. A third bullet injured her hand, but it is unclear whether it grazed her or hit something nearby, causing the resulting shrapnel to ricochet into it.
Israeli security forces opened fire without giving any prior warning, according to witnesses. “We didn’t see any soldiers near us,” medic, Fadi Asmar, 27, who had brought his 5-year-old son to the protest, said. “That’s why we felt safe. No one was throwing rocks or anything. Soldiers just started shooting.”
Bullets of the type used in the shooting are only employed by the Israeli forces, according to HRW.
“Indiscriminate or deliberate firing on observers and demonstrators who pose no imminent threat violates the international standards that bind Israeli security forces,” executive director of Human Rights Watch Kenneth Roth said. “It is particularly troubling when those seeking to monitor the security forces’ conduct are among the casualties.”
In addition, seven protesters were shot and injured during the demonstration, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said.
Following the incident, the research assistant was taken to Ramallah hospital, where she was treated and released.
The shooting comes amid heightened Israeli-Palestinian tensions. In the latest outburst, the IDF shot and wounded at least 50 Palestinians during clashes at the Huwwara checkpoint in the northern West bank, Maan News Agency reported.
On Saturday, a civilian woman and her 3-year-old daughter were killed as the family’s house collapsed during an Israeli Air Force strike on the Gaza Strip.
The bombing, which reportedly targeted Hamas sites, was carried out in response to a rocket launched into Israel that was intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system.
Earlier in the day, five Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli security forces at two separate locations – in Jerusalem and along the Gaza border fence with Israel. Meanwhile, four Israelis were injured in stabbing attacks.
The IDF have closed off the Erez border crossing connecting Gaza with Israel in response to the escalating conflict, according to Israeli media.
The recent surge in violence has been fueled by the situation surrounding the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, which is located on the Temple Mount, which is considered a major holy site by both Islam and Judaism.
Palestinians fear they will be deprived of their rights at Al-Aqsa, with Muslim clerics expressing concern that Israeli authorities plan to raze the mosque to construct a Jewish temple – a claim that Israel strongly denies.
In this week’s latest development, Israel has reintroduced a ban forbidding Palestinian worshipers under 50 from entering the Al-Aqsa mosque for Friday prayers. The move was announced by Israeli police as part of broader measures focused on tightening security in the Old City.
The new wave of violence has been ongoing for over a week, with reports of victims coming from the region daily.