A day after the Israeli military killed more than a dozen Palestinians during protests in the Gaza Strip, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights sent an urgent letter to senior Israeli officials this morning, 31 March 2018, demanding they immediately allow Gaza search and rescue teams to enter the area near the border fence to evacuate two wounded or dead Palestinian men. Their conditions are unknown.
The urgent letter, sent to Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, Chief Military Advocate General (MAG) Sharon Afek, and Major General Yoav Mordechai, the commander of Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), demanded that Gaza S&R teams be allowed to immediately enter the “buffer zone” area adjacent to the border fence between Gaza and Israel to locate and extricate Mohammed Mhareb Mohammed Al-Arabiyeh and Musab Zuheir Anis Al-Saloul.
The two men are located in Jahr Al-Dik in Wadi Gaza – inside the Gaza Strip – some 150 meters from the border fence.
The Israeli military uses live fire to prevent Palestinians from entering this self-declared “buffer zone” that extends 300 meters into Gaza.
Due to the urgency of this matter and humanitarian imperative, if the Israeli military continues to prevent a search and rescue operation today, Adalah and Al Mezan will consider appealing to the Supreme Court.
Yesterday morning at 05:00, Israeli forces opened fire with artillery, killing one Palestinian farmer and wounding another inside Gaza. During the day, Israeli forces opened fire during Palestinian protests inside Gaza near the border fence. Two Palestinian men were also shot by the army near the border in unknown circumstances. Initial information indicates that between 15 and 17 Palestinians have been killed, and hundreds wounded in the areas along the border fence.
As of today, Saturday afternoon, the Israeli military continues to prevent members of the Palestinian civil defense and medical search and rescue teams from entering this area to evacuate the two men.
Requests from Palestinian civil defense and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to the Israeli military to allow the rescue of the two men have not borne fruit.
ISRAELI ARMY BREAKING INTERNATIONAL AND ISRAELI LAW
By preventing the rescue and/or extrication of wounded or dead, the Israeli military is violating both international humanitarian law and Israeli laws governing warfare anchored in the Geneva Conventions.
Articles 15 and 17 of the Fourth Geneva Convention concern the treatment and evacuation of wounded and the extrication of casualties for burial. Article 15 states:
“At all times, and particularly after an engagement, Parties to the conflict shall, without delay, take all possible measures to search for and collect the wounded and sick, to protect them against pillage and ill-treatment, to ensure their adequate care, and to search for the dead and prevent their being despoiled.”
The Geneva Conventions mandate the protection of wounded and the obligation to allow them medical treatment, to evacuate casualties, and the protection of ambulances, hospitals, and medical teams.
Likewise, these laws guarantee the free movement of medical search and rescue teams to allow them to promptly locate missing individuals in order to increase their chances of survival.
The Israeli Supreme Court also adopted these critical principles in its 2002 ruling that Israeli forces are obliged to conform to humanitarian rules concerning treatment of wounded, sick, and the bodies of casualties.
SNIPER FIRE ON CIVILIANS
Adalah issued a statement yesterday condemning Israel’s use of military snipers when confronting unarmed civilian protesters:
“The Israeli military’s use of 100 snipers against unarmed Palestinian civilian protesters in the Gaza Strip is illegal. Live gunfire on unarmed civilians constitutes a brutal violation of the international legal obligation to distinguish between civilians and combatants. Israel is obligated to act in accordance with international law. Adalah calls for an investigation into those responsible for today’s deadly incident in Gaza and demands that those found responsible for the killings be brought to justice.”
Adalah and Al Mezan sent a letter yesterday to AG Mandelblit and the MAG demanding they act to prevent the use of sniper fire against protesters or for crowd dispersion, and to clearly and directly order Israeli forces to refrain from use of live ammunition of any variety – including sniper fire.
Such military actions constitute gross violations of both international criminal law and Israeli law.
Israeli impunity for decades of human rights violations and war crimes against Palestinians in Gaza, including the devastating and illegal 11-year closure of the Gaza Strip, poses a daily and continuous threat to the lives of Palestinians. Without addressing the underlying context and the just demands of the Palestinian people for an end of the occupation and historical justice for refugees Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights will remain inevitable.
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