On Friday evening, 18 January 2019, Israeli forces wounded 119 Palestinian civilians, including 30 children, 5 women, 5 paramedics, and 2 journalists, in the peaceful demonstrations in the eastern Gaza Strip despite the decreasing intensity of the demonstrations there for the twelfth week consecutively and absence of most means usually used during the demonstrations since the beginning of the Return and Breaking the Siege March 10 months ago.
According to observations by PCHR’s fieldworkers, though the demonstrators were around tens 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. As a result, many of the demonstrators were hit with bullets and teargas canisters to their head without posing any imminent threat or danger to the life of soldiers.
On this Friday, the Israeli forces have increasingly targeted the medical personnel in the field and wounded 5 of them, including 2 female and male paramedics in eastern Khan Yunis, 2 female paramedics in eastern Jabalia and a paramedic in eastern al-Buriej camp. 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.
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, except for northern Gaza due to bad weather. 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 a barrage of teargas canisters. The Israeli shooting, which continued at around 17:00, resulted in the injury of 119 civilians, including 30 children, 5 women, 5 paramedics, and 2 journalists. In addition, dozens of demonstrators, paramedics and journalists 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:
|Among those Killed, there were 8 Persons with Disabilities and a girl.||3||2||2||36||183||Killed|
|Among those wounded, 514 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.||165||173||303||1907||10,391||Wounded|
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