On Friday evening, 08 March 2019, in excessive use of force against peaceful protesters on the 46th Friday of the March of Return and Breaking the Siege, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian child and wounded 133 civilians, including 32 children, a woman, three paramedics, and three journalists, in eastern Gaza Strip. The injury of three of the wounded civilians was reported serious.
According to observations by PCHR’s fieldworkers, the Israeli forces who stationed in prone positions and in military jeeps along the fence with Israel continued to use excessive force against the demonstrators by opening fire and firing teargas canisters at them. As a result, dozens of the demonstrators were hit with bullets and teargas canisters without posing any imminent threat or danger to the life of soldiers.
During this week, the Israeli forces escalated their attacks against medical personnel and press crews working in the field and wounded three paramedics and three journalists. Moreover, an ambulance belonging to the Ministry of Health sustained damage after being hit with a direct tear gas canister in eastern al-Buriej and Khan Yunis, indicating that there is a systematic Israeli policy to target medical personnel and obstruct their humanitarian work, which is protected under the rules of international humanitarian law.
At approximately 15:00, 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 and firing incendiary balloons along the border fence. 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 18:00, resulted in the killing of Tamer Khaled Mostafa ‘Arafat (23), from Rafah. Tamer was hit with a live bullet to the head in eastern Rafah and his death was later declared at the Gaza European Hospital after he succumbed to his serious wound.
Moreover, 133 Palestinian civilians, including 32 children, a woman, three paramedics, and three journalists, were wounded. 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. Moreover, , an ambulance belonging to the Ministry of Health sustained damage after being hit with a direct tear gas canister in eastern al-Buriej camp.
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 wounded, 534 are in serious condition and 114 had their lower or upper limbs amputated; 100 lower-limb amputations, two upper-limb amputations, 12 finger amputations and 25 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.||Notes|
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