During the thirty-eighth week of the Great Return March (GRM) demonstrations in Gaza the Israeli military continued to use lethal and other forms of excessive force on Palestinian protesters and paramedics. The documentation by Al Mezan Center for Human Rights shows that at 2:30pm on Friday, 14 December 2018, Israeli forces fired live ammunition, plastic-coated steel bullets, and tear gas canisters, wounding 201 protesters, including 38 children, five women, two journalists, and five paramedics. Of the wounded, 72 sustained injuries from live ammunition, including ten children and one woman. Five of the wounded suffered serious wounds.
Documentation by Al Mezan Center for Human Rights continues to evidence a trend of Israeli soldiers’ deliberate shooting at unarmed protesters but also at journalists as well as paramedics and ambulances. Al Mezan’s documentation shows that:
The last three paramedics were injured at the demonstration in east Burij refugee camp in the Middle-Gaza district.
Al Mezan’s documentation shows that from the start of the Great Return March protests on 30 March 2018, 251 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip. Of the total fatalities, 175 were killed at the demonstrations—including 34 children, one woman, two journalists, three paramedics, and six persons with disability, including one child. Another 13,178 persons have been wounded, including 2,622 children, 564 women, 149 paramedics, and 138 journalists. Of those wounded, 7,272 were hit by live fire, including 1,291 children and 148 women. The Israeli forces continue to keep the bodies of 11 fatalities, including three minors.
Al Mezan reiterates its strongest condemnation of the use of lethal and other excessive force by the Israeli forces, including sharpshooters, to police demonstrations. Al Mezan expresses deep concern at the continued attacks on children, as well as on paramedics and journalists, who are visibly marked as such. 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.
Al Mezan urges the international community to take prompt and effective action to ensure respect for international law and provide meaningful protection for unarmed protesters throughout Gaza. The duty to protect protected persons is a principal legal requirement 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.
The failure to hold to account perpetrators of human rights abuses encourages the advancement of harmful policies and practices. Al Mezan therefore calls on the international community to support accountability mechanisms and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice in accordance with international law. In this vein, the international community is called upon to support the UN Commission of Inquiry’s impartial and independent investigation into the apparent unlawful deployment of force against the unarmed protesters, journalists and paramedics.