Palestinian Territories - The Israeli forces’ continued use of excessive force against Palestinian protesters at the Israel-Gaza fence is deeply shocking, says the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, noting that in the 200 days of protests, Gaza has lost 205 members of its population.
At least one Palestinian is killed every single day, adds the Geneva-based Euro-Med Monitor, further noting that in every 100 Gazans, 1 injury was recorded.
Despite the fact that the protesters were mostly unarmed civilians and did not in most cases pose a credible threat, the Israeli forces met them with lethal force, including by live fire and explosive bullets, as well as toxic gas and tear gas.
69 of those injured, 14 of whom were children, suffered permanent disability, according to the latest statistics by the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
Israel’s response to protests violate the principles of international human rights law; that is, despite the fact that protests have largely been peaceful, Israeli soldiers killed 205 people, including five women and 38 children, while also injuring 22,527 others, 18% of whom are children.
With Gaza’s health facilities short on operable equipment and medical supplies, the death toll is expected to rise and those injured are left with long-term effects. Meanwhile, the Israeli authorities continue to impose a relentlessly suffocating blockade that has left civilians unaccounted for, simply as collateral damage to a policy of collective punishment.
Further worsening the situation, the Palestinian Authority has been sanctioning Gaza’s 2-million population to end the Hamas rule of the hardly liveable coastal enclave.
One of those injured on Friday, 1 June 2018, was Asaad Ali. In his testimony to Euro-Med Monitor’s team, he said that “because of a blockade imposed on us for twelve years now with the world turning a blind eye to our slow death, I decided to go out with my children and participate in a peaceful protest with a large group of unarmed demonstrators to demand my natural right to a better life for my children and myself.”
Recounting the story of his injury, he added: “I was about 200 meters from the security fence east of Gaza City amid crowds of demonstrators before a sniper bullet hit my left arm. Young men then took me to the ambulance, which in turn took me to al-Shifa Medical Complex west of Gaza City. There, I underwent an emergency surgery after which doctors told me that my hand will not heal easily, especially given that I was hit by an explosive bullet that has damaged the bones and ligaments.
20-year-old Assem Jundeia, who was also injured during the demonstrations, said: “I have been living under this devastating blockade since I was eight years old. I have been deprived of my most basic rights, and I do not see any future in light of this situation.”
Commenting on his injury: Assem said: “I was a little over 300 meters away from the fence and unarmed when I was targeted. I was a football player in a local team in Gaza. As a football player, I had a dream to become an international player. Now that I was hit with a bullet in my foot, I lost all hope.”
The Israeli forces targeted Palestinians indiscriminately, said Euro-Med Monitor. Neither medical teams nor journalists were spared; three medical personnel have been killed and 409 others wounded by live ammunition and tear gas canisters since the beginning of demonstrations. In addition, 84 ambulances and medical tents have been targeted using gas bombs.
Israeli forces killed journalists Yasser Murtaja and Ahmad Abu Hussein during their coverage of the events. More than 112 journalists and photographers were injured by bullets and tear gas, including 18 journalists who were repeatedly injured and five women journalists.
Half of the wounded were shot using live ammunition, and 449 were injured by explosive bullets, said Sarah Pritchett, Euro-Med’s spokeswoman.
The Israeli soldiers deliberately caused the greatest harm they could to civilians, added Pritchett, stating that, in light of the international community's failure to take concrete steps to end the Gaza crisis, Israeli soldiers continue to target Gazans with impunity.
The targeting of civilians while exercising their right to peaceful assembly, guaranteed by Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, cannot be justified, and violates the protection accorded to them as civilians - in accordance with Article III of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits attacks on persons not taking part in hostilities, Pritchett further stated.
The targeting of medical staff and journalists also contravenes international humanitarian law, specifically articles 15 and 79 of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, which stipulate that medical, journalistic and civilian personnel must be respected and protected.
It is noteworthy that the popular marches that have been taking place at the Israel-Gaza fence for 29 weeks act as a response, according to the organizers, to the continued policy of collective punishment against citizens in the Gaza Strip, in addition to demanding the right of return for Palestinian refugees, in accordance with United Nations resolution 194.
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor calls on the international community to exert serious pressure to put an end to the targeting of Palestinian demonstrators in the Gaza Strip and to protect their right to peaceful assembly.
Euro-Med Monitor also calls on all parties concerned to exert pressure on Israel to lift its blockade affecting every aspect of Gaza’s largely civilian population.
The non-profit, youth-led organizations also calls on the Commission of Inquiry, which was formed at the request of the Human Rights Council to investigate Israeli violations against the demonstrators, to deliver its report to the concerned parties as soon as possible -- especially with civilians’ lives still at stake -- so that the Security Council and the ICC may hold accountable those responsible for the killing of civilians in the coastal enclave.