Ref: 03/2019

On Friday evening, 04 January 2019, Israeli forces wounded 46 Civilians, including 7 Children, 4 Journalists and 6 Paramedics, in an excessive use of force against the peaceful demonstrators in the eastern Gaza Strip though the demonstrations have scaled down for the tenth week consecutively and despite absence of most means usually used during the demonstrations since the beginning of the Return and Breaking the Siege March 9 months ago.

 

According to observations by PCHR’s fieldworkers, Though the demonstrators were around between tens and hundreds of meters away from the border fence, the Israeli forces who stationed in prone positions and in military jeeps along the fence continued to use excessive force against the demonstrators by opening fire and firing teargas canisters at them, without the later posing any imminent threat or danger to the life of soldiers and despite the prevailing calmness for the 9th week since the Great March of Return started on 30 March 2018.

On this Friday, the Israeli forces have increasingly targeted the medical personnel in the field and wounded 6 of them, including one who was hit with a teargas canister while he was in an ambulance transferring one of those wounded in eastern Rafah City.  Moreover, the Israeli forces fired a barrage of teargas canisters near where ambulances were parked in Khan Younis.  All of this indicates an Israeli systematic policy to target the medical personnel and obstruct their humanitarian action that is guaranteed with protection under the international humanitarian law.

On 04 January  2019, the incidents were as follows:

At approximately 14:30, thousands of civilians, including women, children and entire families, started swarming to the five encampments established by the Supreme National Authority of Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege adjacent to the border fence with Israel in eastern Gaza Strip cities.  Hundreds, including children and women, approached the border fence with Israel in front of each encampment and gathered tens of meters away from the main border fence, attempting to throw stones at the Israeli forces. Although the demonstrators gathered in areas open to the Israeli snipers stationed on the top of the sand berms and military watchtowers and inside and behind the military jeeps, the Israeli forces fired live and rubber bullets in addition to barrages of teargas canisters. The Israeli shooting, which continued at around 17:00, resulted in the injury of 46 Civilians, including 7 Children, 4 Journalists; one of them is a female, and 6 Paramedics; 2 in eastern Khan Younis, 2 in eastern al-Bureij and 2 in eastern Jabalia and Rafah City. In addition, hundreds suffered tear gas inhalation and seizures due to tear gas canisters that were fired by the Israeli forces from the military jeeps and riffles in the eastern Gaza Strip.

The following table shows the number of civilian victims due to the Israeli forces’ suppression of the Great March of Return since its beginning on 30 March:

Notes Medical Crews Journalists Women Children Total Casualties
Among those Killed, there were 8 Persons with Disabilities and a girl. 3 2 1 35 180 Killed
Among those wounded, 513 are in serious condition and 101 had their lower or upper limbs amputated; 89 lower-limb amputations, 2 upper-limb amputations, 10 finger amputations and 17 children had their limbs amputated according to the Ministry of Health.   The number of those wounded only include those wounded with live bullets and directly hit with tear gas canisters as there have been thousand others who suffered tear gas inhalation and sustained bruises. 161 139 296 1840 10,119 Wounded

 

PCHR emphasizes the right of Palestinians to peaceful assembly that is guaranteed by all International human rights instruments, stressing that the Israeli forces should stop using excessive force and respond to the legitimate demands of the demonstrators, particularly lifting the closure which is the real solution to end the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

PCHR emphasizes that targeting the medical personnel and ambulances is a serious violation of the rules of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, whose International standards regulate the protection of medical personnel, including ambulance crews, vehicles and medical facilities.  These serious violations practiced and deliberate attacks against the medical personnel amount to war crimes according to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, particularly the protection provided for by the Convention.

PCHR emphasizes that continuously targeting civilians, who exercise their right to peaceful assembly or while carrying out their humanitarian duty, is a serious violation of the rules of international law, international humanitarian law, the ICC Rome Statute and Fourth Geneva Convention. Thus, PCHR calls upon the ICC Prosecutor to open an official investigation in these crimes and to prosecute and hold accountable all those applying or involved in issuing orders within the Israeli Forces at the security and political echelons.

PCHR hereby condemns the excessive use of force and commission of crimes by the Israeli forces despite the prevailed calmness, 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.