On 14 July 2018, the Israeli military carried out an airstrike on a building in Gaza which it claimed the Hamas used for training purposes. A joint investigation by B’Tselem and Forensic Architecture found that the strike began with the launching of four missiles the military termed “warning missiles.” The first killed two 14-year-olds who were sitting on the rooftop at the time. The investigation also found that the video clip the military released of the attack omits footage of the strike in which the two boys were killed while the impact of the third missile is shown twice. The firing of lethal missiles as a means of warning is unlawful and, for all intents and purposes, constitutes an attack. As such, the action must abide by the applicable rules set out in international law, including adhering to the principle of proportionality and the duty to provide effective warning. None of this was done in the case at hand.
Since the Return Protests began along the Gaza fence, Israeli forces have killed at least 31 Palestinian minors - 21 of them under the age of 16, and three only 11 years old. In October we published the findings of our investigation into the killing of 4 minors; we now report our findings regarding another 4. None of them posed a danger to security forces; the killing of all was a direct result of the unlawful open-fire policy that Israel is applying in the area.
Since 30 March 2018, Israeli security forces have fatally shot over 180 demonstrators – including 31 minors – and injured over 5,800 demonstrators with live gunfire. The vast majority of casualties were unarmed, and were fatally shot from a distance while in the Gaza Strip itself. As a general rule, the protectively clad troops sniping at them from other side of the fence were not in any real danger. Israel is responsible for this reality: giving manifestly unlawful open-fire orders; causing the collapse of Gaza’s healthcare system; denying the wounded the care they need. Below is an analysis of figures B’Tselem compiled over the past few months, and the stories of four individuals injured at the protests.
On 14 Sept. 2018, at a Return Protest east of al-Bureij R.C., Muhammad Shaqurah (20) torched a tire near the fence, tied a bit of wire to the fence, tugged it and let go. After rejoining other protesters about 20 meters away, he was shot and killed by Israeli troops on the other side of the fence, although he was endangering no one at the time. The killing of Shaqurah and 170 other Palestinians, incl. 31 minors, is the direct and predictable outcome of the policy to open lethal fire at protesters near the fence, evincing the disregard of Israeli authorities for the lives of Palestinians.
On 10 Aug. 2018, thousands of Palestinians held a demonstration east of Rafah. Some burned tires and threw stones at Israeli forces on the other side of the fence. The forces fired tear gas and live bullets, killing three demonstrators. B'Tselem found that two of those killed were not endangering the forces in any way. These fatalities are the direct result of Israel’s open-fire policy, and another example of the lack of concern shown by Israeli authorities for Palestinian life and limb.
In protests near the Gaza fence from 30 March to 8 Oct. 2018, Israeli forces shot and killed at least 166 Palestinians, 31 of them minors, and injured more than 5,300 with live gunfire. Most of those killed or injured did not endanger the forces, who were on the other side of the fence. The high casualty count is a direct result of Israel’s open-fire policy in the area. Its lethal outcomes, which are well-known, convey the Israeli authorities’ disregard for the life and death of Palestinians. Testimonies regarding the killing of four of the minors follow.
On 9 August 2018, Israel’s air force dropped a guided bomb on the home of the Abu Khamash family in Deir al-Balah, killing a pregnant woman and her toddler. The bomb was dropped as part of a massive exchange of fire between Israel and armed operatives in the Gaza Strip, who fired rockets at Israeli communities injuring 23 people, one of them seriously. Firing missiles in densely-populated areas such as the Gaza Strip by definition endangers civilians. Israel has killed thousands of civilians in Gaza with airstrikes. As Israel insists that this patently illegal policy is lawful, no one has been held accountable for the horrifying outcomes.
On 1 June 2018, during a protest held north of Khuza’ah in the Gaza Strip, Israeli security forces deliberately fired at Palestinian paramedics who were clearly identified as medical crew and were 25 meters from the fence: Rozan a-Najar, a 20-year-old paramedic from Khza’ah was killed; two others were wounded. Since the Gaza protests began in late March, security forces have killed 127 protesters, including at least 18 minors, and wounded some 4,100 people with live fire. The military persists in this lethal policy despite its predictable outcome from the very outset.
Since 30 March 2018, at protests near the Gaza fence, over 3,600 Palestinians have been injured by Israeli live gunfire, and dozens – incl. at least 12 minors – have been killed. Gaza’s healthcare system, already failing after a decade under Israeli blockade, cannot provide them the care they need. Rehabilitation options are also few and too expensive for most. Israel is responsible for this situation: it ordered the unlawful shooting, brought the Gazan healthcare system to the verge of collapse and is denying rehabilitation, in or out of Gaza. These are the stories of three boys who were injured. Two have lost a leg. Their lives will never be the same.
The demonstrations held in Gaza today came as no surprise. Israel had plenty of time to come up with alternate approaches for dealing with the protests, apart from firing live ammunition. The fact that live gunfire is once again the sole measure that the Israeli military is using in the field evinces appalling indifference towards human life on the part of senior Israeli government and military officials. B’Tselem calls for an immediate halt to the killing of Palestinian demonstrators. If the relevant officials do not issue an order to stop the lethal fire, the soldiers in the field must refuse to comply with these manifestly unlawful open-fire orders.
Israel’s regime of occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations. B’Tselem strives to end the occupation, as that is the only way forward to a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all people, both Palestinian and Israeli, living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.