On Friday evening, 05 April 2019, in excessive use of force against peaceful protesters on the 53rd Friday of the March of Return and Breaking the Siege, Israeli forces wounded 109 civilians, including 30 children, six women and two 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 tear gas 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. Moreover, the Israeli forces used a device making big noises that sound like explosions of sound bombs in eastern Khan Yunis.
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. Demonstrators chanted slogans, raised flags and, attempted to approach the border fence, set fire to tires and tried 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 tear gas canisters. The Israeli shooting, which continued at around 18:00, resulted in the injury of 109 Palestinian civilians, including 30 children, six women and two journalists. Fifty-six of them were hit with live bullets and shrapnel, 47 were directly hit with tear gas canisters and six were hit with rubber bullets. 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 wounded, 543 are in serious condition and 136 had their lower or upper limbs amputated; 122 lower-limb amputations, 14 upper-limb 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 recalls the report of the International Commission of Inquiry issued last February, which confirmed the findings of PCHR and other Palestinian and international human rights organizations, and considered that the violations of the Israeli forces may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity.
PCHR reiterates Palestinians’ right to peaceful assembly to confront Israel and its forces’ denial of the legitimate and inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination, right to return and right to end the occupation of the Palestinian territory.
PCHR stresses 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 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 reiterates its call 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 also emphasizes that the High Contracting Parties to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention should fulfill their obligation 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.