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Fact Sheet: Killings

During the al-Aqsa Intifada, Israeli occupation forces and settlers have killed at least 2107 Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).  This figure does not include Palestinians killed while attacking Israeli targets.[1]  The vast majority of these were unarmed civilians, while 410 (19.5%) were children under age 17.  Some 22,000 Palestinians have been injured.[2]  Most of these killings fall into several categories:


  • Demonstrations and “clashes.”  In the first months of the al-Aqsa Intifada (29 September-31 December 2000), Israeli forces killed approximately 300 Palestinians, 70% of them in the context of demonstrations or clashes.  In the vast majority of instances, demonstrations are either peaceful or involve throwing stones at Israeli soldiers in well-fortified positions from considerable distances.  Israeli soldiers frequently respond to demonstrations with excessive force, including live ammunition or rubber-coated metal bullets, even without a threat being posed to their lives or the lives of others, and without first using other means at their disposal.  In most of the handful of cases involving Palestinian gunfire, gunmen were separate from demonstrators and opened fire after Israeli troops used live ammunition against unarmed protesters.[3]

  • Invasions.  Starting in late 2001, the Israeli army began launching major raids into areas under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), including cities and densely populated refugee camps.  By 2002, incursions had become a daily occurrence.  During the first 6 months of 2002, approximately 68% of killings took place during invasions of PNA-controlled areas.  Tanks, armoured vehicles, and bulldozers, often backed by combat aircraft, surround and invade communities, overwhelming any resistance.  Incursions have been accompanied by: indiscriminate shooting, shelling, and bombardment; mass arbitrary detentions; mass house demolitions; use of civilians as human shields; attacks on medical workers and journalists; wanton destruction of and damage to civilian institutions; denial of access to humanitarian aid, ambulances, and independent observers; and imposition of curfews.

  • Indiscriminate shelling, shooting, aerial bombardment.  Palestinian communities, especially those located near Israeli settlements and military bases, are frequently subjected to indiscriminate shelling and shooting of residential areas, in some places every night.  Heavy machine guns and tanks fire into Palestinian villages and refugee camps, while Apache helicopter gunships and F-16 fighter planes bombard PNA office buildings in civilian areas.  Such use of force is disproportionate and often indiscriminate, resulting in deaths and damage and destruction to many homes.

  • Assassinations.  Using helicopter gunships, undercover units, and booby-trapped explosive devices, Israeli occupation forces have killed over 242 Palestinians in operations designed to eliminate Palestinian activists, including both political leaders and militants.  These assassinations are a form of extra-judicial execution.  They take place without any evidence, trial, or opportunity for appeal.  In almost all cases, arrest is not even attempted.  Moreover, Israel carries out assassinations in ways that show complete disregard for bystanders; approximately 36.8% of those killed in assassination operations have been bystanders, including children.  As a category of willful killings, assassinations are grave breaches under the Fourth Geneva Convention and are thus considered war crimes under international humanitarian law.  Israel’s state-sponsored assassination policy has been universally condemned by the international community.
  • Other willful killings.  Dozens of Palestinians have been killed in circumstances of complete quiet, while walking down the street or waiting to pass through checkpoints, without any violence nearby.  A number of Palestinians have also been extra-judicially executed after being arrested or incapacitated by Israeli forces.  Such willful killings constitute grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and are thus considered war crimes under international humanitarian law.
  • Settler killings.  Israeli settlers living illegally in the OPT have been linked to a number of acts of violence against Palestinians since 1967.  During the al-Aqsa Intifada, dozens of Palestinians have been killed by Israeli settlers, and more injured or beaten.  Israeli authorities, who provide generous economic incentives to settlers as well as automatic weapons for their “protection,” have failed to adequately investigate such acts and punish those responsible.


In the hundreds of cases of Palestinians killed by Israeli occupation forces or settlers since the start of the al-Aqsa Intifada, the Israeli government routinely fails to investigate and prosecute those responsible for killings, and in none of these cases has compensation been paid to Palestinian victims or their families.  This has created a climate of impunity amongst Israeli soldiers, settlers, and police.


[Last updated 14 May 2003]


[1] This figure covers 28 September 2000-14 Mayl 2003; includes foreign citizens.

[2] Palestine Red Crescent Society, March 2003, www.palestinercs.org.

[3] See, inter alia, Illusions of Restraint, B’Tselem, December 2000, www.btselem.org.