Al Mezan Center for Human Rights strongly condemns Israel’s use of excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force on Saturday against Palestinian protesters near the perimeter fence east of Gaza City. The conduct is reminiscent of a nearly two-year-long trend of systematic, largescale unlawful targeting by the Israeli military against Gaza demonstrators calling for their rights. Prompt and decisive international intervention is needed to de-escalate the situation and ensure the protection of civilians in Gaza.
According to Al Mezan’s field reporting, at around 5:30pm on Saturday, 21 August 2021, Israeli occupation forces at the perimeter fence fired live ammunition and tear gas canisters at Palestinian protesters marking the burning of Al-Aqsa Mosque 52 years ago. Ahead of the demonstration, Palestinian factions called for a peaceful commemoration. Israel’s shooting, which continued until 7:00pm, left 41 Palestinians wounded, two of them critically, as described by medical personnel at al-Shifa Hospital. Among the injured were 24 children and photojournalist Assem Mohammed Shehada, 35, who suffered shrapnel wounds to his face while covering the demonstration. Shehada works for the Palestinian media agency Watania.
According to Al Mezan’s firsthand documentation, the Israeli occupation forces used live fire against demonstrators who did not pose an imminent threat. The force was excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate, amounting to a serious violation of international law, in particular of Israel’s human rights obligations within law enforcement. Israel’s systemic culture of impunity has long ensured that unlawful targeting of individuals has been embedded in its treatment of Palestinians. Israel also has legal obligations as an occupying power vis-à-vis the protected Palestinian people and Al Mezan notes that the stifling closure of Gaza is the source of many human rights and humanitarian law violations.
The international community must urgently intervene to protect civilians in the occupied Palestinian territory and to pressure Israel to immediately lift its closure of Gaza. The individuals suspected of committing the most serious crimes of concern must be investigated and prosecuted to ensure full accountability for the unlawful conduct of the Israeli military.