Over the past five weeks, Israeli snipers have killed almost 50 Palestinians protesting from Gaza about the continued occupation of their country, and the theft of their land. In the second of this special two-part feature, Michael Brull maps out the slaughter through 15 quotes ranging from human rights experts to the Israeli military and government.
I am running out of ways to explain the horrors in Gaza. For weeks the Israeli military has openly announced it is going to gun down unarmed peaceful protesters, and prepared mounds for the Israeli snipers so they could be well prepared for all the shooting that ensued.
Rather than editorialising, I thought I would try to lay out some facts. I’m going to compare a few videos at the start, Palestinian figures for casualties, and various statements by UN experts and human rights groups. These will be contrasted with statements by the Israeli Defense Minister, and the Israeli army. Readers can make up their own minds.
— Nasser Atta (@nasseratta5) March 30, 2018
— Liam O'Hare (@Liam_O_Hare) March 30, 2018
Brief guide to casualties
Infographics: Source of casualties data: Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza
1 | Amnesty
Amnesty International, “Israel/OPT: Stop the use of lethal and other excessive force and investigate deaths of Palestinian protesters”, 31 March 2018
“Following the deaths of 17 Palestinians during protests that started yesterday in the Gaza Strip and the injuring of hundreds of others, Amnesty International is calling on the Israeli authorities to put an immediate end to its heavy handed, and often lethal, suppression of Palestinian demonstrations. The organization is also calling for independent and effective investigations to be launched immediately into reports that Israeli soldiers have unlawfully used firearms against unarmed protesters. Israel must respect the human rights to life and to peaceful protest amid concerns that the crackdown against protesters demanding the right of return for Palestinian refugees will continue.…
Videos posted on social media appear to show unarmed Palestinian protesters being shot by Israeli soldiers while waving the Palestinian flag or running away from the fence.”
2 | B’Tselem
B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, 30 March 2018, “Shooting unarmed demonstrators is illegal and the command that allows it is manifestly illegal”
“Since today’s morning hours, Israeli soldiers have been shooting at Palestinian demonstrators standing on the other side of the fence surrounding Gaza. At least ten Palestinians have been killed so far, including one minor, and at least a thousand have been wounded. Shooting at unarmed demonstrators is illegal and any command allowing such an action is manifestly illegal. Yesterday, B’Tselem warned against relating to demonstration areas as combat zones and against shooting live fire at demonstrators. Armed soldiers and unarmed demonstrators are not “at war.” The illegal open fire regulations and the compliance with them are the reason for the number of dead and injured today in the Gaza Strip.”
B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, “Why Israeli soldiers must refuse to fire at unarmed Palestinian protesters”, 3 April 2018
“An order that permits live gunfire at unarmed civilians is blatantly unlawful. As Justice Benjamin Halevy ruled in the Kafr Qasem case back in the 1950s, the illegality of such orders “is not a question of form, nor is it imperceptible, or partially imperceptible.” On the contrary, it is a case of “unmistakable illegality patently evident in the order itself, it is a command that bears a clearly criminal nature or that the actions it orders are of a clearly criminal nature. It is an illegality that pains the eye and outrages the heart, if the eye be not blind and the heart be not callous or corrupt.”
The responsibility for issuing these unlawful orders and for their lethal consequences rests with the policy makers and – above all – with Israel’s prime minister, defense minister, and the chief of staff. They are also the ones who bear the obligation to change these regulations immediately, before this Friday’s planned protests, in order to forestall any further casualties.
That said, it is also a criminal offense to obey manifestly illegal orders. Therefore, as long as soldiers in the field continue to receive orders to use live fire against unarmed civilians, they are duty-bound to refuse to comply.”
4 | Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch, “Israel: Gaza Killings Unlawful, Calculated”, 3 April 2018.
“The high number of deaths and injuries was the foreseeable consequence of granting soldiers leeway to use lethal force outside of life-threatening situations in violation of international norms, coupled with the longstanding culture of impunity within the Israeli army for serious abuses.…
The Israeli government has not shown that the demonstrators throwing rocks or Molotov cocktails posed a grave threat to the well-protected soldiers deployed on the other side of the border fence, nor has Israel claimed that any Palestinian crossed the border on March 30.
Human Rights Watch reviewed footage it believes authentic based on an interview with the videographer that appears to show a demonstrator shot in the leg while praying and another video showing a man shot while throwing a rock. Other videos reviewed appear to show demonstrators shot while slowly walking toward the border empty-handed or holding only a Palestinian flag or retreating from the border. Interviews with six witnesses, including three journalists, indicated that soldiers shot at men who were in the area between the encampments and the fence but who posed no grave threat to anyone across the fence.”
5 | UN experts
Statement on 6 April 2018 by UN Rights experts:
Agnès Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Leilani Farha, Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing; David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967.
“UN human rights experts have condemned the killings by Israeli security forces of at least 16 Palestinian protesters near the Gaza fence, and urged the international community to ensure accountability through an independent and impartial investigation into the Israeli response.…
‘There is no available evidence to suggest that the lives of heavily armed security forces were threatened,’ the experts said. ‘Israel has ignored repeated demands by the international
community to credibly investigate and prosecute substantial allegations of wrongful killings by its security forces,’ they added.”
6 | International Criminal Court
Statement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, regarding the worsening situation in Gaza, 8 April 2018
“It is with grave concern that I note the violence and deteriorating situation in the Gaza Strip in the context of recent mass demonstrations. Since 30 March 2018, at least 27 Palestinians have been reportedly killed by the Israeli Defence Forces, with over a thousand more injured, many, as a result of shootings using live ammunition and rubber-bullets. Violence against civilians – in a situation such as the one prevailing in Gaza – could constitute crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or “the Court”), as could the use of civilian presence for the purpose of shielding military activities.”
7 | Amnesty
Amnesty International, “Israel/OPT: Israeli forces must end the use of excessive force in response to “Great March of Return” protests”, 13 April 2018.
“The Israeli authorities must urgently reverse their policies and abide by their international legal obligations. Their horrifying use of live ammunition against unarmed protesters, and the resultant deaths, must be investigated as possible unlawful killings.
“The Israeli authorities must respect the Palestinians’ right to peaceful protest and, in the event that there is violence, use only the force necessary to address it. Under international law, lethal force can only be used when unavoidable to protect against imminent threats to life.”
Eyewitness testimonies as well as videos and photographs taken during demonstrations point to evidence that, in some instances, unarmed Palestinian protesters were shot by Israeli snipers while waving the Palestinian flag or running away from the fence.”
8 | More UN experts
Statement on 17 April 2018 by UN Rights Experts:
Agnès Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Leilani Farha, Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing; Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Idriss Jazairy, Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights; Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967;Nyaletsossi Clément Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of assembly and association.
“Despite Israel’s commitment to investigate the events of the past few weeks, security forces continue to use live ammunition and rubber bullets against the protesters, killing and wounding dozens of mostly unarmed protesters, women, men and children alike,’ said the UN experts.
‘We express our outrage over these shootings that may have resulted in unlawful killings and the incomprehensibly high number of injuries sustained.’…
‘No evidence has emerged showing that such a situation occurred during the demonstrations that would make the lethal force used legal,’ they said.…
Referring to a recent statement issued by the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Ms. Fatou Bensouda, the experts said that the deadly use of force against demonstrators could constitute crimes under the Rome Statute.”
9 | UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, “Gaza deaths: Israel must address excessive use of force, Zeid says”, 27 April 2018
“Every week, we witness instances of use of lethal force against unarmed demonstrators,” said the High Commissioner. “Warnings by the United Nations and others have seemingly gone unheeded, as the approach of the security forces from week to week does not seem to have changed.”…
“The loss of life is deplorable, and the staggering number of injuries caused by live ammunition only confirms the sense that excessive force has been used against demonstrators – not once, not twice, but repeatedly,” said Zeid. “I am doubly concerned by reports of unusually severe injuries resulting from the use of live ammunition. Furthermore, many of those seeking treatment outside of Gaza have been refused permits by Israel to leave, which has increased the suffering.”
The impact on children is of great concern. Since 30 March 2018, four children have been shot dead by Israeli forces, three of them by a bullet to the head or neck. A further 233 children have been injured by live ammunition, with some sustaining injuries that will result in lifelong disabilities, including through the amputation of limbs.
“The use of excessive force against any demonstrator is reprehensible, but children enjoy additional protection under international law,” said Zeid. “It is difficult to see how children, even those throwing stones, can present a threat of imminent death or serious injury to heavily protected security force personnel.”
“Images of a child being shot as he runs away from Israeli security forces are downright shocking,” he added, referring to the case of 14 year-old Mohammad Ayyoub who was killed by a bullet to the head on 20 April. “
10 | UN Special Envoy
“It is OUTRAGEOUS to shoot at children! How does the killing of a child in #Gaza today help #peace? It doesn’t! It fuels anger and breeds more killing. #Children must be protected from #violence, not exposed to it, not killed! This tragic incident must be investigated.…
Here’s another idea. Stop shooting at children”
11 | Amnesty
Amnesty International, “Israel: Arms embargo needed as military unlawfully kills and maims Gaza protesters”, 27 April 2018,
“ Israel is carrying out a murderous assault against protesting Palestinians, with its armed forces killing and maiming demonstrators who pose no imminent threat to them, Amnesty International revealed today, based on its latest research, as the “Great March of Return” protests continued in the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli military has killed 35 Palestinians and injured more than 5,500 others – some with what appear to be deliberately inflicted life-changing injuries – during the weekly Friday protests that began on 30 March.
Amnesty International has renewed its call on governments worldwide to impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel following the country’s disproportionate response to mass demonstrations along the fence that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel.
‘For four weeks the world has watched in horror as Israeli snipers and other soldiers, in full-protective gear and behind the fence, have attacked Palestinian protesters with live ammunition and tear gas. Despite wide international condemnation, the Israeli army has not reversed its illegal orders to shoot unarmed protesters,’ said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
‘The time for symbolic statements of condemnation is now over. The international community must act concretely and stop the delivery of arms and military equipment to Israel. A failure to do so will continue to fuel serious human rights abuses against thousands of men, women and children suffering the consequences of life under Israel’s cruel blockade of Gaza. These people are merely protesting their unbearable conditions and demanding the right to return to their homes and towns in what is now Israel.’…
In most of the fatal cases analysed by Amnesty International victims were shot in the upper body, including the head and the chest, some from behind. Eyewitness testimonies, video and photographic evidence suggest that many were deliberately killed or injured while posing no immediate threat to the Israeli soldiers.“
12 | The Israeli Army
Israeli army spokesperson, 31 March 2018
13 | The Israeli Defence Minister
Israeli Defence Minister, Avigdor Lieberman (Yaniv Kubovich, “Lieberman Warns Gaza Protesters: ‘Hamas Is Playing With Your Lives’”, 30 March 2018)
“The leadership of Hamas is playing with your lives. Anyone who comes close to the [border]fence today puts himself at risk. I suggest to you to continue your lives and not participate in a provocation,” Lieberman wrote.
14 | The Israeli Defence Minister
Israeli Defence Minister, Avigdor Lieberman (Jewish Telegraph Agency, “Israeli soldiers ‘did what was necessary’ on Gaza border, defense minister says”, 1 April 2018)
“Israeli soldiers did what was necessary. I think all our soldiers deserve a medal,” Lieberman told Army Radio Sunday. “As for a commission of inquiry – there won’t be one.”…
On Saturday night Liberman tweeted: “I do not understand the choir of hypocrites who are calling for a commission of inquiry. They got confused and thought Hamas organized a Woodstock festival and we had to meet them with flowers.”
15 | The Israeli Defence Minister
Israeli Defence Minister, Avigdor Lieberman (Michael Bachner, “Liberman signals Trump didn’t consult with Israel on Syria withdrawal”, Times of Israel, 8 April 2018).
“It has to be understood that there are no innocent people in Gaza,” Liberman added. “Everyone is affiliated with Hamas, they are all paid by Hamas, and all the activists trying to challenge us and breach the border are operatives of its military wing.”
A statement from the Defense Ministry later on Sunday said: “The defense minister in the interview intended to the word tamim (naive). Any other translation is mistaken.”
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