Middle East

Lieberman rejects probe into shot Palestinians

Palestinians carry a wounded protester during clashes with Israeli troops over the controversial Israeli barrier in Kfar Aqab near the West Bank city of Ramallah May 19, 2014. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman brushed off demands Wednesday from at home and abroad for an investigation into the deaths of two Palestinian youths killed by Israeli forces last week.

The pressure came after video footage emerged appearing to show the two Palestinians being shot unprovoked, prompting calls from Washington and the United Nations for a full investigation.

“I reject any demand” for an international investigation, Lieberman told reporters on a tour of the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

“Such an incident will be investigated regardless of any demand,” he remarked, denouncing world criticism of the incident as “hypocrisy.”

Closed-circuit video footage released Wednesday by Defense For Children International and B’Tselem appeared to show separate incidents in which the two youths were shot as they walked down the same street near Ramallah while Palestinians marked the 66th anniversary of the Nakba or “catastrophe” of Israel’s creation.

Although clashes were taking place in the area on that day, May 15, there is no visible evidence of ongoing unrest in the footage.

But the Israeli army immediately dismissed the footage as having been “edited,” and said it was investigating the incident.

An Israeli commentator criticized official attempts to downplay the incident, joining the calls for a probe. “We live in a world that is tainted by hypocrisy, double standards, changing values and a flexible code of behavior ... that is the situation,” wrote Ben Caspit of Israel’s daily Maariv newspaper Thursday.

“The correct Israeli response is to comply with the American call issued yesterday, and to launch an immediate, in-depth, true and quick investigation. And most importantly, transparent. We must not have any secrets.”

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday that Washington expected Israel “to conduct a prompt and transparent investigation to determine the facts surrounding this incident.”

And Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, assistant UN secretary-general for political affairs, called for an “independent and transparent” probe.

It was “of serious concern that initial information appears to indicate that the two Palestinians killed were both unarmed and appeared to pose no direct threat,” he said.

The European Union also condemned the incident.

“It is important that any such incidents are investigated thoroughly ... we reiterate the need for security forces, whether Israeli or Palestinian, to refrain from the use of lethal force, except in cases where there is a real and imminent threat to life,” a statement said Thursday.

The Palestinian leadership accused Israel of the “deliberate execution” of Musaab Nuwarah, 20, and Mohammed Udeh, 17.

The Palestinians say the youths were unarmed and posed no threat, accusing Israel of using “excessive and indiscriminate violence.”

Israel has said border police were operating in the area at the time to try to quell a violent demonstration by about 150 Palestinians, and denies using live bullets.

Meanwhile, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees published figures Wednesday showing a sharp rise in the number of Palestinian refugees killed and injured by Israeli forces since the beginning of 2013.

UNRWA said the numbers of those wounded by live ammunition so far this year had risen to 43 from 10 in the same period in 2013.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 22, 2014, on page 9.




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