Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been holding protests near the fence with Israel, calling for the right of return and an end to the blockage on Gaza, for more than nine months. The Israeli military’s unlawful use of live fire against protesters who pose no threat to anyone continues to take its toll on lives. By the end of January 2019, this policy had resulted in the killing of 195 protesters, including 35 minors and two women. By now, more than 6,000 people have been injured by live fire in the protests.The vast majority of persons killed or injured posed no threat to the Israeli security forces, who were stationed on the other side of the fence. The high number of casualties is a direct outcome of the open-fire policy that Israel is employing along the Gaza perimeter fence, including during demonstrations held nearby. Although the lethal outcomes of this criminal policy are well-known, the Israeli authorities refuse to change it, displaying indifference to the lives and deaths of Palestinians.
Below is a description of the deadly shooting of two protesters on Friday, 11 January: a 13-year-old boy and a woman in her forties. Both were hit at a significant distance from the fence. Clearly, neither posed a threat to anyone.
Amal a-Taramsi, 44, Gaza City:
Amal a-Taramsi, a 44-year-old resident of Gaza City, arrived at a protest held near the perimeter fence east of Gaza City at around 2:00 P.M. During the demonstration, some of the demonstrators torched tires and threw stones, explosive devices and grenades at Israeli security forces who were stationed on the other side of the fence. As she had done regularly, a-Taramsi helped proteseors hurt by tear gas inhalation by spraying their faces with a saline solution. At around four o’clock, while standing about 200 meters away from the fence, a-Taramsi was critically wounded in the neck by live fire.
In a testimony given on 15 January 2019 to B'Tselem field researcher Muhammad Sabah, her friend, Samira Abu al-’Imrin, a 45-year-old resident of Gaza City, related:
On Friday, 11 January 2019, at around 1:30 PM, my sons and I took the bus to the protest area east of Gaza City with Amal a-Taramsi, who was my neighbor and friend. When we arrived, we saw hundreds of protesters, including women and children. We went over to the Jakar Road area and stood there. After about an hour, the protesters started throwing stones at the soldiers who were behind dirt mounds. Some jeeps patrolled near the fence, and occasionally stopped and fired tear gas canisters at the protesters. Amal had a saline solution which she sprayed on the faces of protesters who’d inhaled tear gas. I saw some people who had been hit by live fire, too. We were standing in a distant area, about 200 meters from the fence, in order to use the saline solution to help protesters who had backed away from the fence choking and exhausted from tear gas inhalation.
Suddenly, I heard a shot, and then Amal fell down next to me, her head and face covered in blood. I screamed and tried to help her. Some paramedics came and took her to a Red Crescent jeep. I ran after the jeep, which was driving toward the tents. After that, they transferred her to a-Shifaa Hospital. When I came home, I found out Amal had been killed. I lost a good friend.
‘Alaa al-Halabi, 30, from Jabalya R.C., a senior paramedic and ambulance driver with the Red Crescent, related the incident in a testimony he gave B'Tselem field researcher Muhammad Sabah on 13 January 2019:
On Friday, 11 January 2019, at around 2:00 PM, I arrived with Paramedic Majed Abu Lebdeh at the eastern side of Malaka Square, east of Gaza City. Half an hour after we arrived, people started throwing stonesat soldiers, who fired tear gas canisters and live rounds. We took three people who’d been wounded by live fire to the medical tents and returned to our position, around 200 meters away from the fence. We were standing there, watching the protesters throw stones and the soldiers respond with tear gas canisters and live fire in their direction.
At around 4:00 PM, as I was watching the protesters who were close to the fence throwing stones at soldiers who were behind dirt mounds, I saw a woman standing about ten meters north of me. Suddenly I heard live gunfire and youths screaming. I went over to a woman who was lying on the ground and recognized her as the woman I’d seen standing there before. She was bleeding and her head was covered in blood. I took her over to a Red Crescent Land Rover and drove her to the medical tents. They examined her and gave her first aid, and then she was taken to a-Shifaa Hospital. Later, we found her ID card in her bag. It turned out her name was Amal Mustafa a-Taramsi.
The doctors at a-Shifaa Hospital pronounced Amal a-Taramsi dead from a live bullet that had penetrated her neck.
Amal’s mother, Halimah a-Taramsi, 67, a married mother of 13, related in a testimony she gave B'Tselem field researcher Olfat al-Kurd on 23 January 2019:
My daughter Amal and I went to the March of Return protests ever since they started. We would go to the protests held east of Gaza City, in the Malaka area. She would also go to events in the Zikim area, in the northern Gaza Strip. She was never violent during the protests, and always tried to give protesters first aid. She would bring water, saline solution and perfume to help protesters who had been hurt by tear gas inhalation.
Amal got divorced five years ago. She was unlucky. Since then, she lived at home with me. She would cook for us, clean and take care of me and her father, who is an elderly man. She was always happy to help and never said no. She was very devoted and loving. I have heart disease, diabetes, kidney problems and high blood pressure. Whenever I was in pain, she would stay by my side and watch over me. She refused to remarry. She would tell me: And who will take care of you and help you, since you’re so sick? I don’t want to get married. I want to stay with you and take care of you”. She was on good terms with the whole family, with friends and neighbors. She was always smiling and laughing. She was my whole life. She filled the house with joy. Now there’s no light in the house without her. I’ve lost her laughter, her smile. I pray for God to accept her into heaven.
'Abd a-Ra'uf Salahah, 13, from Jabalya R.C.:
That Friday, 'Abd a-Ra’uf Salahah, 13, from Jabalya Refugee Camp in the northern Gaza Strip, attended a different demonstration held east of the camp. During the demonstration, some of the demonstrators torched tires and threw stones, explosive devices and grenades at Israeli security forces who were stationed on the other side of the fence. At around 3:00 PM, Salahah and some other teens approached the fence, hung a flag on it, and retreated to a distance of about 150 meters.
In a testimony given to B'Tselem field researcher Olfat al-Kurd on 20 January 2019, Ahmad Abu al-Foul, 35, a married father of two and paramedic with the Red Crescent, described what he saw:
On Friday, 11 January 2019, I went to the protest east of Jabalya R.C. There were a lot of protesters there. I went up to a distance of 300 meters from the border. There were young people there, throwing stones at the Israeli soldiers who were stationed behind a dirt mound and fired live rounds and tear gas canisters. They were launching the tear gas canisters from mortar shells directly at the protesters, from close range. That kind of shooting is very dangerous when it hits people directly.
At around 3:00 P.M., I went to a distance of about 150 meters from the fence because I saw some protesters choking on the gas. At the same time, my neighbor, 'Abd a-Ra’uf Salahah, 13, came up to me and asked me for a drink of water. I gave him water, and then he went closer to the fence, hung a flag on it, and then backed up and stood closer to me, with a group of more than ten teens.
At about 3:30 P.M., the soldiers started firing a barrage of tear gas canisters toward the protesters. I backed away to a distance of about 200 meters from the perimeter fence. 'Abd a-Ra’uf and the teens who were with him also retreated and hid behind a small dirt mound. A few minutes later, 'Abd a-Ra’uf tried to run away from there, toward the west, with his back to the fence. I was 50 meters away from him and I saw a teargas canister hit him right in the back of the head
. I rushed over to him with a few other paramedics. Some protesters picked him up and rushed over to us. The air was fill of gas. I grabbed him and saw he’d been hurt by a teargas canister behind the left ear. Half the ear was cut off, and there was a hole in his skull. He was bleeding heavily. I immediately applied a pressure bandage to the wound. The boy was breathing, but didn’t speak. I tried to give him first aid as he was being taken away on a stretcher. We took him to the ambulances that were parked about 100 meters from us.
Inside the ambulance, I took his clothes off with another paramedic and hooked him up to an IV and oxygen. He was in critical condition. He kept opening and closing his eyes. When we got to the medical tents, he was still alive, but in critical condition. After that, I went back to the spot.
Muhammad al-Khaldi, 24, a photojournalist and resident of Jabalya R.C., was documenting the demonstration. In a testimony he gave B'Tselem field researcher Muhammad Sabah on 15 January 2019, he recounted:
At around 3:30 P.M., I was about 100 meters away from the fence, filming young men, teens and soldiers. Some young men walked toward the fence, and some of them went near it. We, the photographers, went back to get away from the fence and the tear gas. I stopped filming after that and started taking stills. I heard from the young men that there was someone wounded behind us. I looked over and saw a kid lying on the ground, about 15-20 meters away from me, and about 200 meters from the border.
I ran to him and saw that he was unconscious and bleeding from the left side of the head. About a meter and a half away from him, I saw the remains of a teargas canister that was still emitting gas. Some young men, teens and paramedics came. We put the kid on a stretcher and took him to an ambulance. I didn’t take photos, because I can’t stand the sight of blood. I went back to documenting the demonstration. I was sad about the injured boy. He was just a little kid, and had been standing far from the border, about 200 meters away.
Salahah was taken to a-Shifaa Hospital, where he remained in the ICU until the early hours of 14 January 2019, when doctors pronounced him dead.
His mother, 'Awatef al-’Atal (Salahah), 55, a married mother of five, spoke about her son in a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Olfat al-Kurd on 17 January 2019:
Ever since the March of Return demonstrations started last March, 'Abd a-Ra’uf went every Friday, in the buses that took protesters to a point east of Jabalya R.C. Every time, I asked him not to go and to stay away from the fence, because I was afraid he’d get hurt. Sometimes I went with him, but he always left me in the tent area and went toward the fence. I was very worried about him.
On Friday 11 January 2019, my 20-year-old son ‘Omar came and told me that 'Abd a-Ra’uf had been injured in the leg at the demonstration and that he was at the Indonesian hospital. ‘Omar left for the hospital without me, and called me ten minutes later to tell me 'Abd a-Ra’uf wasn’t there, but at a-Shifaa Hospital in Gaza City. He went there, and when I called to ask if he’d found 'Abd a-Ra’uf, he said he hadn’t seen him yet and that the doctors said there was a minor that fit that description in the operating room. 'Omar waited by the operating room.
I went with my sisters to a-Shifaa Hospital. When I got there, I saw 'Abd a-Ra’uf unconscious and hooked up to machines at the ICU. His whole head was bandaged and full of blood. The doctors told me his condition was serious and that I should pray for him. I waited at the entrance to the ICU. I cried. My heart was broken.
I went to the hospital every day, but the doctors would only let me in for a few minutes at a time, and I wasn’t allowed to touch him or hold him. I was also scared he’d wake up with a bad injury and a serious disability. All I could do was pray.
On Sunday night, he seemed to have difficulty breathing and I couldn’t calm down. I felt he was getting worse, and I was afraid they’d tell me he’d died. On Monday, right after dawn prayers, at about five-thirty in the morning, my cell phone rang and my sister Rida answered. I asked her what happened. I could feel it. She said: “'Abd a-Ra’uf passed away”. I cried and started praying for him. Everyone loved 'Abd a-Ra’uf. He played soccer on the school team and wanted to be a teacher when he grew up. He always told me he wanted to be a teacher when he grew up. He’s left such a void in the house and in my life. A piece of my heart has been torn out. I won’t see my little one ever again. I hope he receives the grace of the heavens and goes to heaven.