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From the field

Events on the Temple Mount - September 29, 2000

October 2000, Summary

B'Tselem has published an interim report regarding the Temple Mount events that occurred last week. B'Tselem decided to focus on the events on the Temple Mount, since these were the first of a chain of events that engulfed the Occupied Territories in violence over the past week, and also spread into Israel.

B'Tselem's investigation paints a dismal picture of the excessive use of force, which led to the death of four Palestinians and injuries to more than 200. The use of rubber bullets, while deliberately refraining from measures of lesser severity such as tear gas and water jets, is especially grave and one of the main causes of the great number of people injured. The shooting was extensive, indiscriminate, lacked the requisite cautionary measures, and was aimed at a large crowd of people. Many people were wounded in the upper part of their bodies, and the bullets were fired, at least in some instances, at people who had fled the scene or were involved in evacuating the wounded.

In this context, it should be noted that similar events have occurred on the Temple Mount in the past, most recently four years ago. On 27 September 1996, three Palestinians were killed by police gunfire and more than a hundred were wounded. One Israeli policeman was moderately, and ten slightly, injured . Following this, B'Tselem published a report that harshly criticized police conduct during the events. The report's conclusions state, in part: "B'Tselem's investigation of police actions during the events on the Temple Mount on 27 September 1996 paint a dismal picture of the excessive and illegal use of force, including lethal force..." Unfortunately, the conclusions of B'Tselem's investigation into the recent events on the Temple Mount are almost identical, indicating that the police failed to learn the lessons that would reduce the number of casualties at such events.

B'Tselem urges establishment of an independent commission of inquiry to thoroughly investigate the events. The inquiry should examine all aspects of the incident, including the excessive use of force and delays in medical evacuation, and should cover cases of both death and injury.

B'Tselem also urges the IPF to formulate rules for police conduct during events of this nature. The fact that such events recur, and each time the police finds itself incapable of coping properly, proves that rules, as well as firm action to enforce them, are necessary. These rules must relate both to the limits on the use of force and the use of alternative means to disperse demonstrations, as well as the conduct toward medical teams and evacuation of the wounded in a way that will allow them free movement.