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From the field

Investigate death, injuries from live firing during Land Day demonstrations in Gaza

Update: On 13 May 2013 the MAG Corps informed B’Tselem that it would not launch an investigation into the circumstances of the killing of the demonstrator Mahmoud Muhammad Yihya Zaqut, explaining as follows: “In the matter of the violent disturbance of the peace near Erez Checkpoint, an examination of the conduct of the military forces reveals no fault in the actions taken to contend with the harsh violence directed against them. It was therefore decided not to launch an investigation by the Military Police Investigation Unit.” On 14 November 2013, the MAG Corps informed B’Tselem that the MPIU would launch an investigation of the injuries sustained by other demonstrators near ‘Abasan al-Kabirah on the same date.

B’Tselem wrote to the Military Police and the Military Advocate General Corps requesting they launch a Military Police Investigation into the death of a Palestinian demonstrator and the wounding of dozens of others when live ammunition was used against protesters during a Land Day demonstration in the Gaza Strip on Friday, 30 March 2012.

During a demonstration northeast of Beit Hanun near the Erez crossing, some 300 youths came within a few dozen meters of the wall and fortifications surrounding the crossing and threw stones at them. Although the demonstrators were unarmed, the army responded with live firing at the protesters and stone-throwers. One demonstrator,: Mahmoud Muhammad Yihya Zaqut, age 19, of Beit Lahiya, was killed. Several dozen youths were shot in the arms or legs and sustained light wounds. It appears that soldiers used live ammunition despite having tear gas at their disposal, which they also used.

An additional demonstration was held east of 'Abasan al-Kabirah, which is east of Khan Yunis. According to reports, soldiers behind the fence fired tear gas grenades and then live ammunition at demonstrators who approached the military fence around Gaza. One demonstrator was seriously wounded when shot in the abdomen and four were lightly wounded.

B’Tselem’s letter noted that the events raise a grave suspicion of illegal and unjustified use of live ammunition when soldiers were in no danger whatsoever. Land Day demonstrations were announced in advance and the army should have been prepared for demonstrations and clashes along Gaza’s border with Israel, in a way that would have enabled soldiers to use only non-lethal crowd control measures..

In its letter, B’Tselem demanded that a Military Police investigation be launched immediately to examine suspected misconduct by the army in both these incidents. The military’s preparedness for Land Day events should be scrutinized, including open-fire regulations provided to soldiers on the Gaza border and all other instructions concerning Land Day.