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Bassem Abu ‘Anza who lost his leg after being shot by the military. Photo by Khaled al-‘Azayazeh, B’Tselem, 17 January 2018
From the field

Soldiers fire live bullets at Gazan demonstrators near fence with Israel, killing eight and injuring hundreds

Since Trump declared on 6 December 2017 that the US embassy would be moved to Jerusalem, demonstrations in Gaza along the fence with Israel have become much more frequent. As in previous rounds of protest, Palestinian youths have thrown stones at Israeli security forces stationed on the other side of the perimeter fence, and these have responded by firing live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets and teargas canisters.

Since the current round of protest began, the Israeli military has killed eight Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza: Muhammad Muheisen (29), Ibrahim Abu Thurayyah (29), Yasser Sukar (23) and Muhammad a-Dahduh (19) near the Nahal Oz Checkpoint; Jamal Musleh (20) in the area of al-Bureij R.C.; Zakaria al-Kafarneh (20) near Erez Checkpoint; Sharif Shalash (28) near Jabalya R.C. and Mahmoud al-Masri (29) near ‘Abasan al-Kabirah. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 322 Palestinians were injured by live fire and another 58 by rubber-coated metal bullets during the demonstrations.

B’Tselem investigated the circumstances in which the eight demonstrators were killed, as well as several incidents involving injury. Four of the cases are described below:

Muhammad a-Dahduh (19) from Gaza City, killed at a protest near Nahal Oz Checkpoint on 8 December 2017

Muhammad a-Dahduh

On 8 December 2017, shortly after noon (at around 12:30 P.M.), a demonstration was held near the Gaza perimeter fence close to the Nahal Oz Checkpoint, which is east of Gaza City. Hundreds of Palestinian youths torched tires and threw stones at Israeli soldiers and jeeps stationed on the other side of the fence, about 10-25 meters from it. The soldiers responded by firing live bullets and teargas. In some cases, the teargas canisters were fired from an apparatus installed on the roof of at least one jeep. Some of the youths threw canisters back at the soldiers.

At around 3:00 P.M., Muhammad a-Dahduh approached the fence, hung a Palestinian flag on it and drew back.


In a testimony Yasser a-Sarhi (29) from Gaza City gave B’Tselem field researcher Muhammad Sabah on 26 December 2017, he related:

Yasser a-Sarhi

At around 1:00 P.M., I reached the area of Nahal Oz with a friend. There were hundreds of other guys there, as well as teens who were throwing stones. The Israeli soldiers were firing live bullets and teargas canisters, and the youths were throwing the canisters back at them. Some got close to the fence. I found a tire and set it on fire.

Muhammad a-Dahduh and another guy I don’t know came up close to where I was, a few meters away from the fence. We threw stones at the soldiers with a slingshot, and they fired teargas canisters. Muhammad and the other guy said they were choking on the gas and that we should run back. I said: “We shouldn’t run away, because the minute we do, the soldiers will open fire at us.” We stayed put.

Muhammad sat down next to me, a few meters away from the fence, holding the slingshot. I drew back a bit. Muhammad tried to get up but was immediately hit by a bullet and fell down. Some guys picked him up and I went over to help them. We picked him up together and I carried him to the ambulance.

A-Dahduh was admitted to a-Shifaa Hospital in Gaza City, where doctors found that the bullet had penetrated his neck, fracturing bones and severing his spine, so that all four limbs were paralyzed. He was transferred to intensive care and from there to the Red Crescent al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City on 21 December, where he died of his wounds on 24 December 2017.

Video: Israeli soldiers fire live ammunition and teargas at Palestinian protesters near Gaza perimeter fence, 29 December 2017

Zakaria al-Kafarneh (20) from Beit Hanoun, killed at a demonstration near Erez Checkpoint on 22 December 2017:

On 22 December 2017, shortly after noon, (around 12:30 P.M.), more than 100 Palestinian youths held a demonstration near Erez Checkpoint, north of Beit Hanoun. Some burned tires and threw stones at soldiers who were inside fortified watchtowers located on the other side of the fence, adjacent to it. The soldiers were firing live bullets, rubber-coated metal bullets and teargas canisters at the demonstrators, some of whom threw canisters back. At around 1:30, one of the demonstrators, Zakaria al-Kafarneh, tried to tamper with barbed wire that had been laid on the ground some 50 meters from the fence and was shot in the chest.

In a testimony he gave to B’Tselem researcher Muhammad Sabah on 25 December 2017, 28-year-old Khaled Abu Sitah from Beit Hanoun related:

Khaled Abu Sitah

At around 12:30 P.M., I set out on foot with seven friends to Erez Checkpoint. When we arrived, there were about 90 people there. We started throwing stones and burning tires. More and more young guys and teens kept arriving. We all threw stones at the Israeli watchtower in which the soldiers were stationed. They fired teargas canisters and we threw them back, buried them in the sand or hurled them far away, downwind, so the clouds of teargas wouldn’t come back to us.

We started moving towards the fence. There was barbed wire there, which the military had laid to stop us from getting close to the checkpoint. Zakaria and I tried to lift it to get closer to the watchtower. The soldiers fired teargas canisters at us and we dropped down behind the barbed wire. Zakaria raised it again and then I heard shooting and saw him fall down. One of the guys who were with us said he’d been hit. I look at his hand and saw he was wounded, but not seriously.

I looked over to Zakaria. He was lying on the ground, bleeding from the chest. We went over to pick him up and then the soldiers fired more teargas at us. Still, we managed to pick him up and run to the ambulance. The soldiers fired teargas at the ambulance, too.

A Red Crescent ambulance took al-Kafarneh to the Indonesian hospital near Jabalya R.C., where he was pronounced dead upon arrival from a gunshot wound to the chest.

Randah Hararah. Photo by Olfat al-Kurd, B'Tselem, 20 Dec. 2017

Randah Hararah (21) from Gaza, injured at a demonstration near the Nahal Oz Checkpoint on 11 December 2017:

On the afternoon of 11 December 2017, at about 3:00 P.M., another demonstration was held by the perimeter fence near the Nahal Oz Checkpoint, east of Gaza City. Some of the demonstrators threw stones at soldiers standing on the other side, some 10-25 meters from the fence. The soldiers fired live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets and teargas at them. At around 3:30, about 20 students arrived by bus and joined the demonstration, standing some 200-300 from the fence. At around 4:00, soldiers opened fire at the demonstrators, injuring one of the students, Randah Hararah, in her left thigh.

In a testimony she gave to B’Tselem field researcher Olfat al-Kurd on 20 December 2017, Hararah described how the incident unfolded:

We were about 300 meters away from the fence, and there were soldiers standing right by it on the other side. They fired teargas canisters, live bullets and rubber bullets. One guy was shot in the leg and some demonstrators carried him to an ambulance, which was waiting about 50 meters away. It couldn’t come any closer because of the heavy fire. Some demonstrators in front of me were choking from the teargas. Some of them were given first aid and others taken away in ambulances.

At around 4:00, I was standing and shouting slogans when a soldier fired at me from behind a sand pile on the other side of the fence. I was hit by a live bullet in my left leg, near the knee. I started moving away from the fence. I was in terrible pain and blood was pouring from my leg. Ahmad Hamudah, who was standing next to me, picked me up and carried me to an ambulance about 50 meters away. I was put in the ambulance together with my friends Alaa Shmali and Maher Mizhar. The medics examined my leg and took me to a-Shifaa Hospital. I got there at about 4:30 and was taken into a pre-op room. The doctors told me that the X-rays showed a bullet lodged in my left thigh, and that I had to have surgery to get it out.

I was in the hospital alone, without my parents. I tried to call them but their phones were off. I had to undergo the surgery alone. It lasted about an hour and they got the bullet out. After I woke up from the anesthesia, I was transferred to al-‘Awdah Hospital for more treatment. I couldn’t feel my leg at all and was terrified that they’d have to cut if off. I breathed a sigh of relief when several hours later, they said I could go home.

Luckily, I healed from that terrible injury. It was all for the benefit of Palestine and because of what’s happening in Jerusalem. The Israeli military fired live bullets at us even though the Palestinian people are challenging it without weapons – this is especially true of us, the demonstrators. We didn’t use any weapons. We just stood there, chanting slogans and throwing some stones.

Bassem Abu ‘Anza. Photo by Khaled al-‘Azayzeh, B'Tselemm 17 Jan. 2018

Bassem Abu ‘Anza (24) from the town of ‘Abasan al-Jadidah, injured at a demonstration east of the town on 29 December 2017:

On 29 December 2017, at about 2:00 P.M., a demonstration was held east of the town of ‘Abasan al-Jadidah, which lies east of Khan Yunis. Some of the demonstrators waved Palestinian flags, burned tires and threw stones at soldiers who were on the other side of the fence, some 10-20 meters from it. The soldiers fired live bullets and teargas canisters at them, in some cases using equipment for firing teargas canisters installed on the roof of a jeep. At around 3:40, a soldier opened fire at Bassem Abu ‘Anza, who was more than 100 meters from the fence throwing glass marbles at soldiers, and injured him in both legs.

In a testimony he gave to B’Tselem field researcher Khaled al-‘Azayzeh on 17 January 2018, Abu ‘Anza related:

At around 3:40, I was standing alone about 100-150 meters from the fence, hurling marbles towards the soldiers with a small slingshot. Some guys were about 20 meters behind me. I picked up a large rock and was about to smash it on the ground to break it into little stones that I could throw at the soldiers, when a soldier fired at me from behind a mound of sand. I was hit in the right knee and was also wounded less seriously under the left knee.

It felt like an electric current had been sent through my body. I fell over and lost feeling in my legs. Some guys ran over to me and lifted me onto a stretcher. My friend Ramzi got into an ambulance with me, and we were taken to the European hospital. I was conscious. The medic kept replacing my bandages to stop the bleeding.

At the hospital, the doctors found that Abu ‘Anza’s right leg had been broken and both an artery and a nerve severed. The leg was surgically amputated below the knee. Five days later, Abu ‘Anza was transferred to the Red Crescent hospital in Khan Yunis, where he underwent four days of rehabilitation. In his testimony, he said:

In his testimony, he said:

When I woke up from the surgery, my father and other members of my family were gathered around me. My brother Muhammad told me that the doctors had cut off my right leg. I felt my stomach churn and I threw up. Both my legs were covered with a sheet. I couldn’t lift it and didn’t ask them to do it, either. I didn’t want to see my severed leg. I felt terrible. It took me three days to work up the courage to look at the stump. I thought about life with a leg and a half, and wondered how I’d be able to walk as a cripple.

Now I lie at home in constant pain where the stump is. I feel a kind of electric shock in my leg. Every time I have to get up to go to the bathroom, it’s extremely painful.

Three and a half weeks: Eight people killed, six of them by live bullets that hit them in the upper body (including three to the head or neck), and more than 300 people injured by live fire. These figures, combined with the fact that these incidents occurred at different times and places, indicate a policy of suppressing demonstrations in Gaza with live fire. Israeli soldiers, sometimes stationed in watchtowers or behind dirt piles, open live fire at demonstrators on the other side of the fence who are not endangering them. The heavy death toll that this policy has taken in such a short space of time, as well as the harsh impact on the lives of the hundreds of persons injured, were predictable and were likely taken into account by those who authorized this policy and bear the responsibility for its outcomes.

Soldier points his gun at protesters on other side of Gaza perimeter fence, near Nahal Oz Checkpoint. Photo by Muhammad Sabah, B
* Re Zakaria al-Kafarneh, on 27 March 2018, media reports stated that a decision had yet to be made as to whether an investigation of the incident would be launched.