Israeli army to probe murder of Gaza sheperdess by occupation soldier
According to Haaretz, the Israely Army has launched a formal investigation into the death of a Palestinian shepherdess, 25-year-old Nayfa Abu Imsa'id, who was killed by Israeli sniper fire as she was herding her flock with her friend last month. I reported on the story, which got very little press at the time (surprise, surprise), for Aljazeera.
According to the article, "An investigation on the scene raised the suspicion that the soldier violated the army's rules of engagement." Ya think?
Nayfa was killed by a single, high-velocity bullet to the heart. It was broad daylight outside. And she was several hundred metres away from the fence. Yet time and again, such atrocious acts are completely dismissed by both the media and the Israeli military apparatus.
When I confronted an Israeli army spokesperson about the incident at the time, I was told that after soldiers saw Nayfa and her friend near the border they "fired two warning shots", and that the it is difficult for them to "distinguish" between woman, child, or gunman, insisting there are "rules of engagement" to be followed in such circumstances.
As I mentioned when I wrote about the issue earlier, Gaza's border area has become an ostensible killing zone, where anyone-child, man, or sheperdess, will get killed if they enter within several hundred metres of the zone.
The Israeli human rights group B'tselem says that as part of these new rules of engagement, "soldiers are required to open fire whenever Palestinians enter places defined as 'dangerous areas' (primarily around the Gaza Strip fence)," a protocal they call "lethal ambiguity". In addition, soldiers are allowed to use ammunition capable of killing at very long range, such as bombs weighing hundreds of kilograms dropped by aircraft, and flechette shells (which are composed of darts) fired by tanks.
According to UN statistics, at least 30 unarmed Palestinians, including 5 children, have been killed or seriously injured by Israeli troops for being too close to the Gaza border since the Israeli disengagement.
Just a few days prior to Nayfa's death, eight-year-old Aya al-Astal was killed after being shot four times -twice in the neck - by Israeli soldiers stationed just outside the border. A Palestinian ambulance found her bullet-riddled body hours after the incident. No investigation was ever made for Aya's death.
B'tselem says that since the start of the second Intifada, out of thousands of Palestinian deaths, 20% of whom were minors, the Military Police investigated only 131 cases involving shooting by soldiers. 18 of these investigations resulted in the filing of indictments.
Only one was convicted for shooting to death a Palestinian boy. His penalty was four months in jail and a reduction of rank.
When I confronted the Israeli army about such figures (which he more or less confirmed) during an invesigative piece I wrote in May of 2004, around the time of the second Rafah incursion, the spokesperson insisted that the army does punish soldiers for their actions, even if such punishment are not "publicized".
When pressed, the spokesperson was unable to provide examples of how soldiers convicted of other crimes were punished. Instead, he told me:
“The fact that the IDF conducts criminal investigations during intensive conflict is testimony to the high level of professionalism and morality embodied by the IDF. [We] have an entire unit in the army that is devoted to teaching and instilling an ethical code within its soldiers and commanders."
Let us hope the investigation into Nayfa's death does not end again rewarding the perpetrator ala Iman al-Hams, nor perpetuate the impunity within the Israeli army and become another statistic on the ever-increasing left-hand column.