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Gaza - 11 May 2018

 

Dear,

My name is Olfat al-Kurd. I live in Shuja'iya in Gaza. I am 37 years old and have four children. In July 2017, I joined the B’Tselem team as one of three field researchers in Gaza. In the past few weeks, since the protests along the fence with Israel began, we have been working around the clock to document, collect eyewitness accounts and testimonies of injured people, and gather information about the demonstrations and casualties.

I attend the weekly protests not only in my professional capacity but also as a Gazan. Some of my photos, posted on B’Tselem’s photo blog, show how most of the protesters gather in tents pitched far from the fence. These families enjoy entertainment stages, live music, food stalls and other family activities. We go there to convey a political message, to demonstrate, but non-violently – we don’t go there with weapons. The soldiers shoot at us nonetheless, and people are injured from live fire and tear gas.

This week, a concerned Israeli colleague asked me why I keep attending the protests, even though it’s dangerous. I replied that I am, of course, afraid, sometimes so much that I fear I won’t come back.
 
But the truth is that nowhere in Gaza is safe – whether near the border or in our own homes. Israeli planes can bomb any house, anywhere, at any moment. We all live in constant dread of something terrible happening. Everyone in Gaza lost a relative in the last wars. I lost my brother in the 2009 war.

The festival activities at the protests are a rare opportunity for us to breathe, meet people, and feel that we belong to something larger than ourselves. The open areas near the fence are the vastest in Gaza, but no one has dared go there since the last war. We can’t go to the beach any longer because sewage infrastructure has collapsed as a result of the blockade, and raw sewage flows into the sea. Many Gazans live in abject poverty and cannot afford to sit in a café or a restaurant, so they come to the protests with a coffee thermos and food.

Israel has been holding Gaza under blockade for more than ten years. Some of the young people participating in the protests and being wounded or even killed by soldiers, do not know what it’s like to have running water and a steady supply of electricity. They have never left Gaza and grew up in a prison.
 
You can’t visit us, Israel doesn’t allow anyone to see what’s going on here. There is no real life in Gaza. The whole place is clinically dead.
 
The younger generations are crushed by the hopelessness and death everywhere. The protests have given us all a spark of hope. They are our attempt to cry out to the world that it must wake up, that there are people here fighting for their most basic rights, which they are entitled to fulfill. We deserve to live, too.  


Sincerely,

Olfat al-Kurd
Gaza Field Researcher
B'Tselem
 

We thank the 408 supporters who donated $52,040 to B'Tselem during March & April 2018. We won't be able to keep working without your generous support
A special thanks to the 147 Israelis among them. Together we will stop the occupation.  

 

Shooting unarmed demonstrators is illegal and the command that allows it is manifestly illegal


Since 30 March 2018, Gazans have protested along the fence with Israel every Friday, with anywhere between thousands and tens of thousands of people participating. At least 39 people have been killed by live fire shot by Israeli security forces and, according to Palestinian Ministry of Health statistics, some 8,000 people have been wounded, more than 2,100 of them from live rounds. 

Israeli security forces have been following manifestly unlawful orders for a month now, using live fire against unarmed protestors located on the other side of the fence, posing no danger to anyone. State officials refuse to change these orders, even in the face of the deaths and hundreds of injuries they have caused, claiming they are legal and defending them in court. However, as Justice Benjamin Halevy ruled in the Kafr Qasem case back in the 1950s, the illegality of these orders “pains the eye and outrages the heart, if the eye be not blind and the heart be not callous or corrupt”. Therefore, these orders must not be issued and must not be obeyed.
 
  • B’Tselem to UN Secretary General: Protect Lives of Palestinian Protestors

Ahead of the UN Security Council's open debate on April 26th, and as the demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel fence are expected to continue, B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad sent UN Secretary-General António Guterres a letter listing the names of the 35 Palestinians protestors shot to death (to that date) by Israeli forces during these demonstrations, four of whom were minors. El-Ad called upon the UN to do “all that is in its power – and its responsibility – in order to protect Palestinian lives and uphold international norms”, with the goal of immediately ending the illegal shooting of unarmed demonstrators in Gaza.

 
On April 26th B'Tselem published the names of protestors shot and killed in Gaza demonstrations under manifestly illegal orders. The order to shoot at civilians who pose no danger to anyone is manifestly illegal. Use of lethal force is permitted only when there is a clear and present danger to life, as a last resort. The responsibility for issuing manifestly illegal orders lies primarily with the policy makers, including the prime minister, the defense minister and the chief of staff. It is forbidden to give and to obey such orders. Over 1,500 people have been injured by live fire.
 
  • Israeli military fired teargas at family tents far from fence during Gaza protests, injuring hundreds

B’Tselem’s investigation has found that soldiers fired teargas at men, women and children engaged in peaceful activities in tents pitched hundreds of meters from the fence during the recent Gaza protests. This is neither lawful nor justified: Israel has no right to disperse demonstrations inside Gaza or tell Gazans where they can be. It certainly may not fire teargas at demonstrators hundreds of meters from the fence who pose no threat to a soul.

If the heart be not callous: New position paper by B’Tselem on the unlawful shooting of unarmed demonstrators in Gaza. Despite the heavy toll on life and limb of Gazan protesters, all state and military officials refuse to cancel these manifestly unlawful open-fire orders and continue to issue – and justify – them. On 13 April 2018, B’Tselem issued a position paper on its findings regarding the first day of protest, analyzing the illegality of orders to shoot at unarmed demonstrators who pose no danger to anyone.
 
On 5 April 2018, B'Tselem launched a campaign entitled “Sorry sir, I cannot shoot." in the Israeli media. The campaign included newspaper advertisements clarifying to Israeli soldiers that they must refuse to open fire on unarmed demonstrators. The organization is taking this unusual step following March 30th's events when soldiers used live fire against unarmed demonstrators. 
 
  • Photo Blog: Gaza not through gun sights

In recent weeks, tens of thousands of Gazans have protested along the fence with Israel. Most have stayed several hundred meters away from the fence, with the demonstrations taking the form of a folk festival: entertainment stages, live music, food stalls and large tents where entire families spend the day.

Naturally, media coverage and public debate have focused on Israeli soldiers shooting demonstrators who approached the fence. Yet it is worth pausing over the vast majority of protesters, who have not been involved in such incidents. B’Tselem field researcher Olfat al-Kurd, Muhammad Sabah and Khaled al-‘Azayzeh documented not only casualties, but also the back line of the demonstrations: teens playing soccer, women baking bread, food stalls, and Gazans asking for an end to the Israeli blockade that has made their lives intolerable.

 
 
  • Failing Gaza healthcare system after 10-year blockade barely handling 2,000+ live fire injuries

Since 30 March 2018, more than 2,000 Palestinians have been injured by Israeli live fire at protests near the Gaza fence. Doctors there report unusually severe injuries and the healthcare system, already failing after a decade of Israeli blockade, cannot provide proper care. Rehabilitation options are also few and too expensive for most. Israel is responsible for this state of affairs: it ordered the unlawful shooting, brought the Gazan healthcare system to the verge of collapse and is denying the wounded rehabilitation – in or out of Gaza.

 
B'Tselem in the media - Gaza
 
  • Other updates:
#Occupation365: Routine founded on violence in the West Bank.
Palestinian communities facing expulsion in Area C, West Bank