During the thirty-ninth week of the Great Return March demonstrations in Gaza, the Israeli military continued to use lethal and other forms of excessive force on Palestinian protesters. The documentation by Al Mezan Center for Human Rights shows that on Friday, 21 December 2018, Israeli forces killed three protesters, including one child and one disabled man, and injured 148 other protesters, including 20 children, three women, two journalists, and one paramedic. Of the injured, 70 were wounded by live fire, including nine children. Three suffered from serious wounds.
The documentation indicates a trend of Israeli soldiers’ deliberate use of live ammunition, plastic-coated steel bullets, and tear gas canisters on unarmed protesters but journalists, and paramedics. Al Mezan’s documentation shows that on Friday:
Al Mezan’s documentation shows that from the start of the Great Return March protests on 30 March 2018, 254 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip. Of the total fatalities, 178 were killed at the demonstrations—including 35 children, one woman, two journalists, three paramedics, and seven persons with disability, including one child. Another 13,458 persons have been wounded, including 2,732 children, 591 women, 153 paramedics, and 139 journalists. Of those wounded, 7,381 were hit by live fire, including 1,332 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.