Gaza Strip — Thousands of Palestinians continue to join the Great Return March demonstrations in the Gaza Strip to demand the lifting of the 11-year closure and blockade. Since the demonstrations began on 30 March 2018, protesters have been met with live ammunition, tear gas, and rubber-coated bullets by Israeli forces, while the international community has failed to provide effective protection. A series of new protests within the Great Return March have started to take place outside of the ongoing Friday demonstrations. These protests have similarly been met with lethal and other excessive force by the Israeli military.
Documentation by Al Mezan Center for Human Rights shows that the additional demonstrations are being held on weekdays other than Friday and include naval marches and night sit-ins near the separation fence—activities which do not threaten the life or safety of Israeli soldiers.
Since Friday, 14 September 2018, Israeli forces have killed four protesters, including one child, and injured around 141 others—54 of them by live ammunition. Of the injured are six children, three journalists, and one paramedic. One Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) ambulance was damaged by Israeli forces’ fire.
Al Mezan’s documentation shows that at 5pm on Tuesday, 18 September 2018, Israeli forces located near Erez crossing fired live ammunition and tear gas canisters at a demonstration in the North Gaza district. The fatalities have been documented as follows:
Both were pronounced dead upon arrival at the Indonesia Hospital.
The shooting by the Israeli military continued until 8pm.
Members of the press and medical teams continued to be targeted, with three journalists and one paramedic injured by tear gas canisters:
The rear window of a Palestinian Red Crescent Society ambulance was smashed after Israeli forces fired a tear gas canister at it.
At 10:30pm on Monday, 17 September 2018, Israeli military aircraft launched two missiles at a group of protesters when they approached the fence to the east of Al-Qarara town in the northeast of the Khan Younis district. The attack was followed by an announcement by the Israeli military that a group of Palestinians approached the fence in the south of the Gaza Strip.
At 12:50am the next day, Tuesday, 18 September 2018, Palestinian Red Crescent Society medical teams found the bodies of two civilian-dressed persons. Both had shrapnel injuries on various parts of their bodies and one of them was torn to pieces. The two bodies were taken to Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, where they were identified as Naji Abu ‘Asi, 16, and Alaa’ Abu ‘Asi, 19—both residents of Al-Zanna area in Bani Sohaila town in eastern Khan Younis.
At 4pm on Monday, 17 September 2018, protesters demonstrated near the northern fence in the northwest of Beit Lahia city while other protesters formed a procession of boats in the sea. The former were met with live fire by Israeli forces based in monitoring sites around the fence. 70 were injured, including six children. 38 of the injured were hit by live fire.
Al Mezan’s records show that from the start of the Great Return March on 30 March 2018, 192 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza. Of them, 139 were killed in the demonstrations—including 27 children, one woman, two journalists, three paramedics, and three persons with disability. Another 9,684 people were injured, including 1,762 children, 417 women, 113 paramedics, and 89 journalists. Of those injured, 5,468 were hit by live fire, including 893 children and 113 women.
Al Mezan reiterates its condemnation of the use of lethal and other excessive force by the Israeli military, including sharpshooters, to police demonstrations. Al Mezan stresses its condemnation of the continued attacks on children as well as on journalists and paramedics who are visibly marked as such by their clothing and gear. Al Mezan stresses that the right to peaceful assembly and free expression are fundamental rights and must be respected. Unarmed protesters not posing any serious or imminent threat to the Israeli forces must not be shot.
The excessive use of force indicates a continuation of unlawful targeting practices on the part of the Israeli forces despite its legal consequences and international condemnation. The blatant failure of Israel’s judiciary to investigate and hold to account individuals responsible for the unlawful targeting practices and policies serves to embolden Israeli forces and government leaders.
Al Mezan urges the international community, led by the Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to take prompt and effective steps to ensure respect for international law and provide meaningful protection for unarmed protesters and civilians throughout Gaza. The duty to protect protected persons is a principal legal obligation and is, at this point in the conflict, a test of the authenticity of the international community’s commitment to their legal obligations, moral standards and humanitarian objectives vis-à-vis the Palestinian population.