On the 45th Friday of the Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege, Israeli forces wound 98 civilians, including 15 children, 4 women; 2 of them paramedics, and 1 journalist
On Friday afternoon, 01 February 2019, in use of excessive force against peaceful protesters on the 45th Friday of the Great March of Return in the eastern Gaza Strip, Israeli forces wounded 98 civilians, including 15 children, 4 women; 2 of them are paramedics, and a journalist. The injury of 7 of those wounded were reported serious, including a 17-year-old girl who was shot with a bullet to the chest in eastern Khan Younis.
According to observations by PCHR’s fieldworkers, though the demonstrators were around tens of meters away from the border fence, the Israeli forces who stationed in prone positions and in military jeeps along the fence continued to use excessive force against the demonstrators by opening fire and firing teargas canisters at them. As a result, dozens of them were hit with bullets and teargas canisters without posing any imminent threat or danger to the life of soldiers.
On this Friday, the Israeli forces continued to target the medical personnel in field and wounded 2 of female paramedics in eastern Gaza City and Rafah when a PRCS ambulance was targeted with a bullet. This indicates an Israeli systematic policy to target the medical personnel and obstruct their humanitarian work that is guaranteed with protection under the international humanitarian law.
On 01 February 2019, the incidents were as follows:
At approximately 15:00, thousands of civilians, including women, children and entire families, started swarming to the five encampments established by the Supreme National Authority of Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege adjacent to the border fence with Israel in eastern Gaza Strip cities. Hundreds, including children and women, gathered along the border fence with Israel in front of each encampment and protested between tens and hundreds of meters away from the border fence.
In several area, the demonstrators moved hundreds of meters away from the encampment to protest in front of the border fence with Israel, and some of them attempted to throw stones at the Israeli forces in addition to chanting slogans. In very limited incidents in Rafah, a group of demonstrators approached the border fence and set fire to tires.
Although the demonstrators gathered in areas open to the Israeli snipers who were stationed on top of the sand berms and military watchtowers and inside and behind the military jeeps, the Israeli forces fired live and rubber bullets in addition to a barrage of teargas canisters at them.
The Israeli shooting, which continued until around 17:30, resulted in the injury of 98 Palestinian civilians, including 15 children, 4 women; 2 paramedics and 1 journalist. The injury of 7 of those wounded was reported serious, including a 17-year-old girl who was shot with a bullet to the chest in eastern Khan Younis. Moreover, dozens of demonstrators, paramedics and journalists suffered tear gas inhalation and seizures due to the tear gas canisters that were fired by the Israeli forces from the military jeeps and riffles in the eastern Gaza Strip.
The following table shows the number of civilian victims due to the Israeli forces’ suppression of the Great March of Return since its beginning on 30 March:
Among those killed are 8 persons with disability and 1 girl.
Among those wounded, 523 are in serious condition and 101 had their lower or upper limbs amputated (89 lower-limb amputations, 2 upper-limb amputations, 10 finger amputations and 17 children had their limbs amputated) according to the Ministry of Health. Those wounded only include those wounded with live bullets and directly hit with tear gas canisters, while thousand others have suffered tear gas inhalation and sustained bruises.
PCHR emphasizes Palestinians’ right to peaceful assembly that is guaranteed by all International human rights instruments, stressing that the Israeli forces stop using excessive force and respond to the legitimate demands of the demonstrators, particularly lifting the closure, which would be the real solution to end the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.
PCHR emphasizes that targeting the medical personnel and ambulances is a serious violation of the rules of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, whose International standards regulate the protection of medical personnel, including ambulance crews, vehicles and medical facilities. These serious violations practiced and deliberate attacks against the medical personnel amount to war crimes according to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, particularly the protection provided for by the Convention.
PCHR emphasizes that targeting civilians who exercise their right to peaceful assembly or while carrying out their humanitarian duty is a serious violation of the rules of international law, international humanitarian law, the ICC Rome Statute and Fourth Geneva Convention. Thus, PCHR calls upon the ICC Prosecutor to open an investigation into these crimes and to prosecute and hold accountable all those applying or involved in issuing orders within the Israeli forces at the security and political echelons.
PCHR hereby condemns the excessive use of force and commission of crimes by the Israeli forces despite the prevailed calmness, believing it is as a result of Israel’s enjoying impunity thanks to the U.S. and so encouraging the Israeli forces to commit further crimes upon an official decision by the highest military and political echelons.
PCHR also reiterates its call upon the High Contracting Parties to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their obligations under Article 1; i.e., to respect and ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances and their obligations under Article 146 to prosecute persons alleged to commit grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
PCHR calls upon Switzerland, in its capacity as the Depositary State for the Convention, to convene the High Contracting Parties to ensure Israel’s respect for this Convention, noting that these grave breaches constitute war crimes under Article 147 of the same Convention and Protocol (I) Additional to the Geneva Conventions regarding the guarantee of Palestinian civilians’ right to protection in the occupied territory.
Photo: Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances amid a crowd of participants in the 45th Great March for Return in the Gaza Strip, Friday, 1 February 2019. Source: PCHR.