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Protest east of Gaza City. Photo by Muhammad Sabah, B'Tselem, 27 April 2018
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Lethal Use of Crowd Control Weapons: Seven Palestinians killed in Great March of Return from direct teargas canister hits

At least seven of the more than 200 Palestinians killed in the Great March of Return Protests died as a result of a direct teargas canister hit. According to OCHA figures, more than 1,600 were injured this way. Firing teargas canisters directly at protestors is part of the open-fire policy Israel has been implementing along the Gaza perimeter fence for more than a year. This policy, which permits harming unarmed people who pose no danger to anyone, is immoral and unlawful.

From the beginning of the Great March of Return protests on Land Day, 30 March 2018, until the end of June 2019, Israeli security forces killed 216 Palestinians, 43 of them minors, and wounded thousands, the vast majority with live ammunition. However, security forces also make deadly use of crowd control weapons, including teargas canisters, which are not designed to be fired at people directly.

At least seven of the Palestinians killed died as a result of a teargas canister hitting their head or face directly, including four minors:

Jamal 'Abd al-Hadi Muhammad 'Afanah, 15, from a-Shaburah R.C., Rafah was injured on 11 May 2018, in Rafah, from a teargas canister and died on 12 May 2018.

 

 

Karam Ibrahim 'Ali Abu 'Arafat, 26, from ‘Abasan al-Jadidah (a-Saghirah), Khan Yunis District was injured on 8 June 2018 in Khuza'ah, Khan Yunis District, from a teargas canister and died on 23 July 2018. A teargas canister launched by Israeli security forces hit his head when he was about 100 meters away from the fence.

 

Ahmad Samir Harb Abu Habel, 15, from Beit Lahiya, North Gaza District, was killed on 3 October 2018 at Erez (Industrial Zone), North Gaza District, by a teargas canister. A teargas canister launched by Israeli security forces lodged in his head. He was at a distance of at least 200 meters away from the fence.

 

'Abd a-Ra'uf Isma'il Muhammad Salha, 13, from Jabalya R.C., North Gaza District, was injured on 11 January 2019 in Jabalya R.C., North Gaza District, from a teargas canister and died on 14 January 2019. A teargas canister launched by Israeli security forces hit his head when he was about 150 meters away from the fence, with his back to it.

 

Samir Ghazi Mahmoud a-Nabahin, 47, from a-Nuseirat R.C., Deir al-Balah District, was injured on 18 January 2019 at al-Bureij R.C., Deir al-Balah District, from a teargas canister and died on 29 January 2019. A teargas canister launched by Israeli security forces lodged in his face.

 

Hassan Nabil Ahmad Nofal, 16, from a-Nuseirat R.C., Deir al-Balah District, was injured on 8 February 2019 in al-Bureij R.C., Deir al-Balah District, from a teargas canister and died on 12 February 2019. A teargas canister launched at him by Israeli security forces hit him in the head. He never regained consciousness after his injury.

 

Bassam Sami 'Othman Safi, 22, from Khan Yunis R.C., was injured on 22 February 2019 in Khuza'ah, Khan Yunis District and died on 11 March 2019. A teargas canister launched by Israeli security forces lodged in his face when he was 150-200 meters away from the fence. He never regained consciousness after his injury.

According to the OCHA Protection of Civilians Database, as of 28 June 2019, more than 1,600 Gaza protestors arrived in hospital with injuries resulting from direct teargas canister hits, more than a third of them in the first three months of 2019.

Teargas canisters are a crowd control weapon with a firing range spanning 100 meters to several hundred meters, in the case of extended range canisters. They are designed to be non-lethal and the open-fire regulations, at least officially, as well as use instructions, forbid firing them directly at people due to the grave danger involved.

Testimonies collected by B'Tselem field researchers in the Gaza Strip over recent months indicate that security forces routinely fire teargas canisters directly at protestors, in contravention of the regulations. The testimonies also indicate teargas canisters are fired from elevated positions, relative to the perimeter fence (earth embankments, or the roofs of military jeeps), or through gaps in the fence itself. B’Tselem has documented direct firing of teargas canisters in the West Bank, which resulted in severe injuries and killed at least two people.

Firing teargas canisters directly at protestors is not a stand-alone practice, but part of the open-fire policy Israel has been pursuing along the Gaza border for more than a year. This policy, which has so far claimed the lives of more than 200 protestors and injured thousands, is patently unlawful and immoral. Using lethal fire, whether live or otherwise, against protestors the vast majority of whom are unarmed and pose no danger to the lives of armored security forces on the other side of the fence, in the same way for more than a year, despite its well-documented horrific results is yet another expression of Israel’s disregard for the lives and bodily integrity of Palestinians.

Link to full report