Israel charges 5 border policemen with robbing Palestinians
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israel on Thursday charged five members of its border security force with stealing from Palestinians who were crossing illegally into Israel from the West Bank.
The officers were charged with armed robbery, assault causing harm and abuse of a defenseless person, among other crimes. The Justice Ministry has asked that four of the accused be held in remand throughout court proceedings.
According to the indictment, the five paramilitary border police officers abused their authority and, in uniform and using their weapons, robbed Palestinians who were crossing into Israel by sneaking through a breach in Israel’s West Bank separation barrier.
“They carried out these acts as they were exploiting the Palestinians’ weakness, at times using their weapons to threaten them and even hitting them, and under the assumption that because these were illegals they would not report to law enforcement,” a statement from Israel’s Justice Ministry said.
The Justice Ministry said the theft took placed as the officers appeared to inspect the Palestinians’ identities. During the inspections, one of the accused took the Palestinians’ wallets to the police vehicle, where the money was stolen.
It said the accused filmed some of the abuse against the Palestinians.
Thousands of Palestinians cross into Israel illegally through holes in the separation barrier. Most are itinerant workers looking for employment in Israel’s more robust economy.
Rights groups accuse Israel of failing to hold its soldiers and security forces accountable for crimes against Palestinians and say there are few indictments and they infrequently lead to convictions.
Israel says the low indictment rate does not signal lack of effort. It says that action is taken if there are legal grounds to try and punish a soldier or police officer.