On 1 Sep. 2020, during a Palestinian march against expropriation of land from the villages of Shufah and a-Ras to establish the Bustanei Hefetz industrial zone, a military officer pushed a protestor to the ground and kneeled on his neck. When other protestors got the man into a car, the officer smashed the driver’s window and threatened to shoot him. On Monday, 21 September 2020, at around 4:00 A.M., about 15 soldiers raided Khairi Hanun’s home and arrested him. As usual, the military justified this conduct, as part of Israel’s sweeping ban on Palestinians’ right to protest and its automatic backing of security forces’ violence against Palestinians.
On 21 Feb. 2020, during the weekly protest against the closure of the eastern entrance to the village of Kfar Qadum since the settlement of Kedumim was expanded, an army bulldozer pushed boulders, placed on the road to obstruct soldiers, towards residents at high speed. The boulders hit a journalist and 10-year-old boy and damaged an ambulance and private car. The military’s well-documented, violent oppression of these demonstrations forms an illegal formal policy of deterring the residents’ legitimate protest against violation of their rights.
Most of the 216 Palestinians killed and thousands injured in the Great March of Return protests up to July 2019 were hit by live fire. However, Israel also makes deadly use of crowd control weapons, including teargas canisters which are not designed to hit people directly. At least 7 Palestinians, including 4 minors were killed by a direct teargas canister hit. Firing teargas canisters directly at protestors is not a stand-alone practice, but part of Israel’s patently unlawful and immoral open-fire policy along the Gaza border.
On 8 March 2019, at a demonstration in Beit Sira, Ramallah District, to protest the killing of two Palestinians, an ambulance found itself amidst the clashes. As it tried to drive away, an officer ordered the driver at gunpoint to shut off the engine and hand over the keys. The ambulance was detained for about 15 minutes. Interfering with the work of medical crews or causing them harm is prohibited. There were no grounds for threatening, detaining or endangering the EMTs. These actions by the security forces are but another example of their disregard for the lives of Palestinians, conduct always carried out with impunity.
On 14 Sept. 2018, at a Return Protest east of al-Bureij R.C., Muhammad Shaqurah (20) torched a tire near the fence, tied a bit of wire to the fence, tugged it and let go. After rejoining other protesters about 20 meters away, he was shot and killed by Israeli troops on the other side of the fence, although he was endangering no one at the time. The killing of Shaqurah and 170 other Palestinians, incl. 31 minors, is the direct and predictable outcome of the policy to open lethal fire at protesters near the fence, evincing the disregard of Israeli authorities for the lives of Palestinians.
In protests near the Gaza fence from 30 March to 8 Oct. 2018, Israeli forces shot and killed at least 166 Palestinians, 31 of them minors, and injured more than 5,300 with live gunfire. Most of those killed or injured did not endanger the forces, who were on the other side of the fence. The high casualty count is a direct result of Israel’s open-fire policy in the area. Its lethal outcomes, which are well-known, convey the Israeli authorities’ disregard for the life and death of Palestinians. Testimonies regarding the killing of four of the minors follow.
On 1 June 2018, during a protest held north of Khuza’ah in the Gaza Strip, Israeli security forces deliberately fired at Palestinian paramedics who were clearly identified as medical crew and were 25 meters from the fence: Rozan a-Najar, a 20-year-old paramedic from Khza’ah was killed; two others were wounded. Since the Gaza protests began in late March, security forces have killed 127 protesters, including at least 18 minors, and wounded some 4,100 people with live fire. The military persists in this lethal policy despite its predictable outcome from the very outset.
Since 30 March 2018, at protests near the Gaza fence, over 3,600 Palestinians have been injured by Israeli live gunfire, and dozens – incl. at least 12 minors – have been killed. Gaza’s healthcare system, already failing after a decade under Israeli blockade, cannot provide them the care they need. Rehabilitation options are also few and too expensive for most. Israel is responsible for this situation: it ordered the unlawful shooting, brought the Gazan healthcare system to the verge of collapse and is denying rehabilitation, in or out of Gaza. These are the stories of three boys who were injured. Two have lost a leg. Their lives will never be the same.
The demonstrations held in Gaza today came as no surprise. Israel had plenty of time to come up with alternate approaches for dealing with the protests, apart from firing live ammunition. The fact that live gunfire is once again the sole measure that the Israeli military is using in the field evinces appalling indifference towards human life on the part of senior Israeli government and military officials. B’Tselem calls for an immediate halt to the killing of Palestinian demonstrators. If the relevant officials do not issue an order to stop the lethal fire, the soldiers in the field must refuse to comply with these manifestly unlawful open-fire orders.
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.