In the context of US President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, 8 December 2017 bore witness to the Israeli military’s use of excessive force against Palestinian protestors, including children and young protestors, during protests. Across the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), crowds of protestors demonstrated against the US recognition of Jerusalem, including occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem, as the capital of Israel, and the support of Israel’s unlawful policies in Jerusalem that the move represents. The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that four Palestinians were killed and at least 1,114 were injured. The Israeli air force also directed attacks at several targets in the Gaza Strip.
Al Mezan’s General Director, Issam Younis, criticized the US decision stating that, “the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, despite Israel’s annexation of territory acquired by force, reflects an alarming violation of international law. It overlooks the rights of the Palestinian population of Jerusalem, runs counter to the UN position that the final status of Jerusalem be decided by the parties at the end of a negotiated process, and contradicts the resolutions of the UN Security Council and General Assembly.” The US also announced a planned move of its embassy to Jerusalem. The US announcements were responded to with demonstrations across the oPt.
According to Al Mezan’s monitoring and documentation in the Gaza Strip, at around 1 pm on Friday, 8 December 2017, Israeli occupying forces located on the northern and eastern borders of Gaza opened fire at protestors. The demonstrations were mostly formed of children and youth and took place in the eastern parts of the Gaza Strip in Rafah, Khan Younis, Middle Gaza, Gaza City, and North Gaza.
While attending a demonstration in Abasan Al Kabeera, eastern Khan Younis, Mahmoud Abdul-Majeed Al Masri, 29, was shot in the right leg. He died an hour later in the Gaza European Hospital. In Khan Younis, 162 Palestinians, including 20 children, were injured; 62 individuals sustained multiple injuries. Some protesters were targeted with rubber bullets and teargas canisters were shot directly at people. The demonstrations continued until 6 pm.
At 9:15 pm, in North Gaza, the Israeli air force fired five missiles at a site of a Palestinian armed resistance group in eastern Shaik Zayed in Beit Lahiya. Maher Mohammed Atallah, 54, had a heart attack as a result of the raid. He later died in the nearby Indonesian Hospital. The raid also caused the moderate to severe injury of 21 others, including seven children and four women. Some nearby houses and other civilian properties were damaged.
At 3:50 am on Saturday, 9 December 2017, the Israeli air force fired three missiles at a former site of the General Authority of Civil Affairs in eastern Jabalia refugee camp. A toddler, Kareem Wisam Abu Namous, one year old, sustained bruising on different parts of his body in the attack. Some nearby houses and civilian properties nearby were damaged.
At 4:10 am, in the Gaza City governorate, the Israeli air force fired one missile at the Abu Jarad site of a Palestinian armed resistance group in southern Gaza City. Mohammed Al Safadi, 25, and Mahmoud Al Atel, 26, were killed in the attack.
Al Mezan condemns the escalation of the use of force in the oPt, which runs counter to international human rights standards, in particular concerning the right to life, and violates international humanitarian law principles. “Coinciding with International Human Rights Day, the escalation follows the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which is a move that blatantly undermines Palestinian human rights and belittles the systematic gross violations of human rights by Israel,” stated Issam Younis.
The use of lethal force to suppress the non-violent protests speaks to Israel’s intention to prevent Palestinian’s from calling for their fundamental human rights, notably the right to self-determination. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of 1948, is a marker for both the rights that Palestinians are due and those that they have been denied since the establishment of Israel in the same year. The international community must take practical steps to challenge this reality, first by taking all possible measures to enforce implementation of the UN’s binding resolutions on the oPt, especially regarding Jerusalem. The US announcement puts at greater risk the peace and security of an already volatile region and the international community must take measures to protect civilians.
The international community must wholly reject the US decision, which lends credibility to the Israeli government’s policies and practices that seek to alter the physical and demographic landscape of Jerusalem in favor of its Jewish character and at the expense of its international law obligations as a duty bearer and occupying power. To combat these policies the international community must take concrete steps to hold Israel accountable and provide access to justice for victims.