Time: 19:30 GMT
On Friday, 04 May 2018, Israeli forces continued to use lethal force against Palestinian peaceful civilians, east of the Gaza Strip, for the sixth consecutive Friday. Although none was killed this week, 196 civilians were wounded with live bullets and direct hits of tear gas canisters, including 28 children, 8 women, 5 journalists and 3 paramedics, one of them was seriously injured, in addition to hundreds suffering tear gas inhalation, including PCHR’s fieldworkers who were documenting the Israeli forces’ suppression of the entirely peaceful demonstrations near the border fence with Israel, east of the Gaza Strip. For the sixth week in a row and upon a decision by the Israeli highest military and political echelons, the Israeli forces used lethal force against the peaceful demonstrators, who posed no threat to the soldiers’ life. Thus, the death toll has risen to 41, including 5 children, 2 journalists and 2 persons with disabilities, and the number of those wounded has risen to 3033, including 517 children, 85 women, 36 journalists and 23 paramedics since 30 March.
Investigations and observations by PCHR’s fieldworkers during this week emphasize the following:
- Dozens of Israeli Forces’ snipers continued to position on the hills, behind the sand barriers and in military jeeps along the border fence in front of the peaceful demonstrations in the eastern Gaza Strip.
- The number of those participating in the demonstrations decreased in the main 5 points as the Supreme National Authority for the Great March of Return chose not to gather large crowds due to school exams and called this Friday ” Friday of Palestine’s Workers.” However, thousands of civilians, including women, children and elderlies within entire families participated in the demonstrations.
- According to observations by PCHR’s fieldworkers, the number of youth gatherings near the border fence augmented to reach dozens who set fire to tires and threw stones at the Israeli forces, east of Khuza’ah village and the northern Gaza Strip, particularly in eastern Abu Safiyah Hill, northeast of Jabalia, adjacent to the Memorial Statute, southeast of Beit Hanoun, and east of the central Gaza Strip. Those gatherings extended to reach the east of al-Buraij refugee camp, east of Juhor al-Deek and to two points in eastern Rafah; one was adjacent to the March of Return encampment and the other was near Karm Abu Salem crossing in addition to the usually organized demonstrations, east of al-Shuja’iya neighborhood in Gaza City.
- The Israeli snipers deliberately and selectively opened fire at the participants in the peaceful demonstrations which included thousands of civilians in 5 areas in the eastern Gaza Strip. As a result, 196 civilians, including 28 children, 8 women, 5 journalists and 3 paramedics, one of them was seriously injured, were wounded with live bullets and direct hits of tear gas canisters, noting that most injuries occur in the demonstrating area that is around 30-300 meters away from the border fence.
- The Israeli forces widely used bursts of tear gas canisters targeting the center of the demonstrations and beyond away from the demonstrators near the border fence. As a result, hundreds, including PCHR’s fieldworkers who were documenting the incidents, suffered tear gas inhalation and seizures; some of them were transferred to hospitals as some of them so far receive medical treatment. Teargasing hysterically intensified after the demonstrators dropped 2 small drones flown by the Israeli forces in the sky of the demonstration area, east of Khan Yunis as the 2 drones were flying very low.
- The demonstrations were as always fully peaceful, and PCHR’s fieldworkers did not witness weapons or armed persons even dressed in civilian clothes among the demonstrators, who were thousands of elderlies, women, children and entire families. Those demonstrators moved forward until in certain instances, particularly in eastern Gaza City, Jabalia and Khan Younis, reached the border fence raising flags, chanting slogans and national songs, flying kites in high and burning tires and setting fire to tires.
- PCHR’s fieldworkers observations undoubtedly refute the Israeli government and some media’s claims that children are used as human shields by the demonstrators. This refusal was based on the totally peaceful nature of the demonstrations, participation of entire families, including their children, and some women and children’s offering water for the demonstrators and raising flags with no influence from any political party encouraging them to do so.
- A tear gas canister was dropped on a tent used by volunteer paramedics belonging to Isnad Community in the Return encampment in Khuza’ah village. Dozens of medical crews’ members in Khan Yunis and Rafah suffered tear gas inhalation after Israeli forces heavily fired tear gas canisters in their vicinity or the wind carried the gas towards the medical points though they were hundreds of meters away from the demonstration areas. Moreover, 2 paramedics were wounded, east of Rafah and Jabalia and one of them was seriously wounded, after being directly hit with tear gas canisters while they were offering first aid to and transferring the wounded civilians from the incidents areas, east of Gaza, Khan Yunis and al-Buraij.
- Journalists were again directly targeted resulting in the injury of 5 of them (2 in Khan Yunis, 2 in al-Buraij and one in east of Gaza City) as many tear gas canisters fell in the vicinity of the journalists encampment in Khuza’ah. As a result, many journalists suffered tear gas inhalation.
- The Israeli incitement against the peaceful demonstrations and encampments continues as extension of previous statements by Israeli political and military officials threatening to inflect deaths and injuries among the demonstrators in addition to perceiving the demonstration itself as danger. This hereby violates the right to peaceful assembly codified in all International instruments.
The incidents today, 04 May 2018, were as follows:
Since early morning, ten thousands of civilians, including women and children within entire families, started swarming to 5 encampments set by the Supreme National Authority for the Great March of Return and Breaking Siege in eastern Rafah City; Khuza’ah in Khan Younis; al-Bureij in Central Gaza Strip; Sheja’eyah neighborhood in Gaza City; and Eastern Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip.
Following the Friday Prayer, at approximately 13:30, the number of participants gradually increased until it reached its peak at approximately 16:00, in the five demonstrations, and they were estimated at hundred thousands of men, elderlies, women and children. They deployed inside and outside the encampments yards, raised flags, and chanted slogans and national songs in addition to flying kites, while hundreds of them, including children and women, approached the border fence, set fire to tires and attempted to throw stones at the Israeli forces.
The Israeli shooting continued until 20:00 according to PCHR’s fieldworkers in the 5 areas. As a result, 196 civilians were wounded with live bullets and direct hits of tear gas canisters, including 28 children, 8 women, 5 journalists and 3 paramedics, one of them was seriously injured, in addition to hundreds suffering tear gas inhalation, including PCHR’s fieldworkers while documenting the Israeli forces’ suppression of the entirely peaceful demonstrations.
Table of Civilians Killed and Wounded during the Last Five Weeks in These Activities:
|Among those killed were 2 persons with disabilities (deaf)||–||2||–||2||40||Killed|
|Among those wounded, 163 are in serious condition and 24 underwent amputation of their lower or upper limbs||23||36||85||36||3033||Wounded|
PCHR emphasizes that the rules of international law, including the international human rights law and international humanitarian law, shall be applied when dealing with the peaceful demonstrations along the Gaza Strip borders. Thus, PCHR stresses that the occupation has an international obligation to apply the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.
Principles on the Use of firearms stipulate that soldiers should not use live fire unless their life is under imminent threat and the shooting must be gradual and proportionate with the threat. First, the soldiers shall give a warning and not in any case use live bullets, except as a last option to defend themselves or others in cases of imminent threat aiming at hindering the attacker’s movement and not killing him.
According to PCHR’s follow-up and its fieldworker’s observations, the facts on the grounds confirm that no threat was posed to life of the soldiers who are hundreds of meters away from the demonstrators separated by a security fence and fortifications, including a huge sand barrier and personal shields. Even in instances when they approached the border fence, the demonstrators posed no threat as they appear to have been unarmed and in light of the heavy fortifications. This confirms there was no possible threat or imminent danger to the soldiers’ life and this was proven by the zero Israeli causalities since the beginning of the demonstrations on 30 March.
Moreover, PCHR’s follow-up of the deaths and injuries confirms that the Israeli soldiers used live and explosive bullets and deliberately targeted the demonstrators aiming at killing them or causing lifelong disabilities, and this can be clarified from the places of injury; many of which were in the head and upper part of the body or in the knee.
PCHR emphasizes that the increasing number of casualties, deaths or injuries, is unjustified as civilians who practice their right to peaceful assembly are being targeted.
PCHR emphasizes that the demonstrations are fully peaceful and civilians have the right to raise their voices against the Israeli forces and closure and enjoy their right to return. Thus, PCHR stresses that Israel shall be held accountable and prosecuted through investigating with it into these crimes.
PCHR also stresses that this ongoing policy by Israel violates the Rome STATUTE OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT (ICC) and Fourth Geneva Convention, and its practices qualify to war crimes. Thus, PCHR calls upon the ICC Prosecutor to open an official investigation into these crimes in addition to prosecuting and holding accountable all of those involved in issuing decisions and orders in the Israeli forces at the political and security level and those applying the orders.
PCHR asks for the presence of international observers from the United Nations (UN) bodies in the Gaza Strip to make sure that these demonstrations are totally peaceful and even if the Israeli authorities denied their access to Gaza, they can observe from the Israeli side of the borders.
PCHR hereby condemns this new crime committed by the Israeli forces, believing it is as a result of Israel’s enjoying impunity thanks to the U.S. and so encouraging the Israeli forces to commit further crimes upon an official decision by the highest military and political echelons.
PCHR also reiterates its call upon the High Contracting Parties to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their obligations under Article 1; i.e., to respect and ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances and their obligations under Article 146 to prosecute persons alleged to commit grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
PCHR calls upon Switzerland, in its capacity as the Depository State for the Convention, to demand the High Contracting Parties to convene a meeting and ensure Israel’s respect for this Convention, noting that these grave breaches constitute war crimes under Article 147 of the same Convention and Protocol (I) Additional to the Geneva Conventions regarding the guarantee of Palestinian civilians’ right to protection in the occupied territories.