On the sixth Friday of the ‘Great Return March’ demonstrations, Israeli forces opened fire at Palestinian protesters along the border fence of the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces continued to employ lethal and other excessive force against unarmed protesters, including youth, women, children, journalists, and paramedics. Approximately 310 protesters were injured, including 64 children, three women, five paramedics, and five journalists, on Friday, 4 May 2018. Of those injured, 95 were hit by live fire and three were considered to be in critical condition.
Al Mezan’s documentation shows that at approximately 2pm on Friday, 4 May 2018, Israeli forces located at the eastern border fence of the Gaza Strip used live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, and tear-gas canisters against unarmed protesters. Some of the attacks were carried out against paramedics and halted their work, including when the Israeli military fired a large number of tear gas canisters at field-based medical units and ambulances in eastern Rafah and Khan Younis. Journalists were also directly exposed to tear gas canister attacks. The shooting continued until approximately 7pm on Friday.
Al Mezan’s documentation shows that since the start of the demonstrations on 30 March 2018, 40 Palestinians have been killed while participating in these demonstrations, including five children, two journalists, one person on crutches and two persons with disability. During the same period, 3,979 were injured, including 732 children, 131 women, 35 paramedics, and 37 journalists—of them 2,186 were hit by live fire.
Al Mezan reiterates its condemnation of the use of lethal and other excessive force by the Israeli military, including sharpshooters, to police the demonstrations. Palestinians in Gaza have the right to peacefully assemble to demand their fundamental and inalienable human rights. The case of protesters, who pose no serious threat to the Israeli forces, being shot lethally indicates a bold continuation of unlawful targeting practices, despite its legal consequences and international condemnation.
Al Mezan asserts that the Israeli forces’ lethal and injurious targeting of protected civilians corresponds with the grave breaches of willful killing and willfully causing great suffering or serious injury under the Fourth Geneva Convention. This conduct is codified as war crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which Al Mezan is cooperating with in the context of pursuing accountability for international crimes.
Al Mezan calls on the international community to take immediate and effective steps to facilitate the protection of the peaceful protesters, who are practicing their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association by taking part in the demonstrations.