Time: 8pm local time (+2 GMT)
On Nakba Day, Israeli forces located on Gaza’s eastern border used lethal and other excessive force against unarmed Palestinian protesters, including children, women and youth. The open-fire policy has been used fervently by the Israeli military for the last seven weeks of the Great Return March Protests, resulting in over 100 Palestinians killed; the vast majority of whom at demonstrations. While funerals began across the Gaza Strip, Palestinians flocked to continue protests against the nearly 11 year closure of Gaza and stress their right of return.
Documentation by Al Mezan Center for Human Rights shows that at 3pm on Tuesday, 15 May 2018, Israeli forces used live ammunition, plastic-coated steel bullets, and tear gas against protesters. In east Al-Burij refugee camp in the Middle Area, Naser Ghorab, 51, was lethally shot in the chest with a live bullet, and Bilal Al-Ashram, 17, was shot and killed with two live bullets—one in the chest and the other in the right leg. In the other districts of the Gaza Strip, 79 protesters were injured, including seven children, two paramedics, and one journalist—of them 41 were hit by live fire. Also, Israeli forces located on the eastern border of Gaza City arrested three Palestinians when they came close to the fence.
While continuing to verify the documentation of incidents on the ground, Al Mezan reiterates its strong condemnation of the use of lethal and other excessive force by the Israeli military, including sharpshooters, to police 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 unlawful 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.
In recognition of the dramatic humanitarian and legal implications of today’s escalation, Al Mezan is urging the international community to take prompt steps to protect protesters and their right to peaceful assembly, to pressure Israeli forces to abstain from using unlawful force, and to allow free movement of patients, medical personnel, and medicines and equipment.