The Israeli military has failed to investigate its forces for killing dozens of Palestinian civilians in recent years, spawning a climate of impunity for soldiers, a human rights group said on Tuesday.
“Soldiers who kill Palestinians in the occupied territories are almost never held accountable, even if the circumstances raise a grave suspicion that they acted criminally,” the Israeli group B’Tselem said.
“This policy permits soldiers and officers to act in violation of the law, encourages a trigger-happy attitude and shows a flagrant disregard for human life,” it added.
The Israeli military would not immediately comment on the report.
B’Tselem said that from 2006 to 2009 the military had opened investigations into just 23 of 148 cases in which 288 civilians were killed.
Another 41 of the cases were dismissed, while the military has yet to issue any decision on the remaining 84. No criminal charges have been brought in any of the cases, B’Tselem said.
During the period in question Israeli troops killed 1,510 Palestinians, including 617 civilians, the group said.
The figures do not include the December 2008 to January 2009 war in Gaza, in which more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed.
B’Tselem said the problem was in part due to the official classification of the situation in the occupied territories as an “armed conflict” despite the fact that there has been little violence in the West Bank in recent years.
The classification dates back to the 2000 outbreak of the Palestinian intifada. The initial years of the uprising saw scores of suicide bombings in Israel and massive military operations across the West Bank and Gaza.