The death toll from the Israeli military’s unlawful use of live fire against March of Return protestors in Gaza who pose no threat to anyone continues to rise. So far, 195 have been killed, including 35 minors and 2 women. More than 6,000 have been wounded by live fire. The high number of casualties is a direct result of Israel’s criminal open-fire policy along the Gaza fence, which Israel refuses to change despite its lethal outcome. Below is a description of the deadly shooting of a young boy and a woman hit far from the fence, without posing a threat.
On 6 Jan. 2019, after an Israeli bus was fired upon near the Beit El settlement, Israeli security forces went into the nearby town of al-Birah. During the raid, a policeman fired without justification at Fawaz ‘Abed (16) who was peeking out of an alley, fracturing his skull. The forces left without giving him first aid. Firing sponge rounds at minors is completely prohibited, as is firing them at close range at a person’s head, which could prove fatal or cause serious injury. Yet breaches of open-fire regulations go unpunished and the law enforcement system whitewashes such incidents. Just part of the routine of occupation.
B’Tselem’s investigation found that, contrary to official Israeli statements, Barghouti did not try to flee or run anyone over, nor could he have tried: two security vehicles blocked the taxi he was driving at either end, and he was surrounded by some 10 security personnel who shot him point-blank–an operation resembling an extrajudicial killing. Official attempts to sanction the killing in retrospect ensure no one will be held accountable.
On 14 Dec. '18, soldiers came to al-Jalazun R.C. after residents threw stones at them and began chasing uninvolved youths. They shot one - Mahmoud Nakhleh, 18 - in the back as he fled from 80 meters away, and then prevented residents from helping him and dragged him around. Only after 15 minutes did they permit his transferal to hospital, where he was pronounced dead. All the military personnel involved, whether the ground soldiers or the officials who issued a falsified statement to justify the shooting, conveyed disrespect for the injured youth's humanity and confidence that this case will be whitewashed like thousands of others.
In 2018, Israeli security forces killed 290 Palestinians, including 55 minors. Of the casualties, 254 were killed in the Gaza Strip, 34 in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and two within Israel. These incidents are a direct result of Israel’s reckless open-fire policy, authorized by the government and the top military command, and backed by the judicial system. As long as Israel adheres to this policy, despite its predictable outcomes, the casualties will continue to amass.
On 14 July 2018, the Israeli military carried out an airstrike on a building in Gaza which it claimed the Hamas used for training purposes. A joint investigation by B’Tselem and Forensic Architecture found that the strike began with the launching of four missiles the military termed “warning missiles.” The first killed two 14-year-olds who were sitting on the rooftop at the time. The investigation also found that the video clip the military released of the attack omits footage of the strike in which the two boys were killed while the impact of the third missile is shown twice. The firing of lethal missiles as a means of warning is unlawful and, for all intents and purposes, constitutes an attack. As such, the action must abide by the applicable rules set out in international law, including adhering to the principle of proportionality and the duty to provide effective warning. None of this was done in the case at hand.
On the night of 4 Dec. 2018, some 100 soldiers invaded Tulkarm. At 2:25 A.M., three Israeli soldiers headed towards some young Palestinians who were standing by a restaurant. At 80 meters away they stopped and opened fire, fatally hitting Muhammad Habali (22) in the head – from behind – and injuring another man. Testimonies and CCTV footage from four cameras show that, contrary to the military’s claim, the area was peaceful at the time. While the military announced it would investigate, this usually serves appearances and to silence criticism, so use of lethal force can continue unchecked.
On Friday, 26 Oct, 2018, dozens of settlers tried yet again to invade an archeological site on land belonging to the village of al-Mazra'ah al-Qibliyah, escorted by security forces, as they have done over the last few months. They soon retreated, but clashes between the forces and residents continued. Later, when the forces began to leave, several dozen young men from the village ran after them. When they got close, at least one Border Police officer fired at them, wounding nine, two of whom died afterwards. Settlers frequently invade Palestinian-owned land with security forces’ backup. Yet the lethal outcome of this incident is unusual and defies every letter of the open fire regulations.
Since the Return Protests began along the Gaza fence, Israeli forces have killed at least 31 Palestinian minors - 21 of them under the age of 16, and three only 11 years old. In October we published the findings of our investigation into the killing of 4 minors; we now report our findings regarding another 4. None of them posed a danger to security forces; the killing of all was a direct result of the unlawful open-fire policy that Israel is applying in the area.
Israel’s regime of occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations. B’Tselem strives to end the occupation, as that is the only way forward to a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all people, both Palestinian and Israeli, living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.