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'Return March’ protests near Gaza fence, 30 March 2018. Photo by Amir Cohen, Reuters
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Israeli security forces killed 290 Palestinians in 2018; most were victims of a reckless open-fire policy

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.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli security forces killed 254 Palestinians, including two women and 47 minors, throughout 2018. Of the casualties, 149 did not take part in hostilities, 90 did, and regarding the remaining 15, B’Tselem does not know whether they took part in the hostilities or not. Two other Palestinians who did not take part in the hostilities, on of them a 17-year-old teenager, crossed the fence into Israel and were killed nearby.

Since late March 2018, Palestinians in Gaza have been holding the March of Return protests along the fence with Israel. During these protests, Israeli forces use extensive live fire against demonstrators, in a way that is both unlawful and immoral. As a result of this open-fire policy, 190 demonstrators have been killed – 65% of all Palestinians killed by Israeli forces this year. These include a woman and 34 minors, three of whom were 11-years-old and one 4-year-old. Most of them were unarmed and posed no danger to anyone.

Another two Palestinians, one of them a 15-year-old teen, were killed in demonstrations held before the Return Protests began. Four Palestinians – a heavily pregnant woman, her infant daughter and two 14-year-olds – were killed in airstrikes within the Gaza Strip.

In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Israeli forces killed 34 Palestinians, including 7 minors. Thirteen of the casualties, including five minors, were killed in protests and incidents involving stone-throwing, or shortly afterwards. Concerning the killing of another person, the military falsely claimed that he was killed during confrontations that included stone-throwing: Muhammad Habali, a mentally challenged young man, was shot in the head from behind as he was moving away from the soldiers who fired at him, and who were standing about 80 meters away. B’Tselem’s investigation, which included video footage, proved that at the time of the shooting, the area was quiet and Habali was endangering no one.

Eleven Palestinians, including a 17-year-old, were killed while attacking, attempting to attack, or allegedly attempting to attack Israeli security forces or civilians – by ramming cars into them, stabbing, use of other cold arms or shooting. Israeli forces shot and killed three other Palestinians – ‘Omar ‘Awwad, Hamdan ‘Ardah and Qassem Abbasi (17) – on the grounds that they had tried to carry out attacks by car, a claim disproven in every case.

Israeli civilians killed three Palestinians, including a 17-year-old, who were attacking or allegedly trying to attack other Israeli civilians. A Palestinian woman, ‘Aishah Rabi, was killed by Israeli civilians who stoned the car she was riding in.

Within Israel, a Palestinian was killed when a rocket fired from Gaza by Palestinians hit an apartment in the Israeli city of Ashkelon.

In 2018, Palestinians killed seven Israeli civilians in the West Bank, including a woman and a baby who died three days after his mother was injured in an attack and doctors delivered him in the seventh month of pregnancy. Palestinians also killed seven members of Israel’s security forces – five in the West Bank, one on operative duty in Gaza, and one on the Israeli side of the fence with Gaza.

An analysis of the incidents in which Palestinians were killed over the last year reveals that most were the result of the reckless open-fire policy implemented by Israel’s security forces. This policy includes, among other things, shooting to kill incidents defined as “attacks”, giving patently unlawful orders that permit live fire at unarmed demonstrators by the Gaza-Israel fence, and bombarding densely populated areas within Gaza. Despite the predictable lethal outcomes, Israel has refused to alter its policy.

This ongoing profound disregard for the lives of Palestinians is broadly backed by senior policy-makers in the military, the government and the judicial system. As a rule, no one is held accountable for these incidents, and the military law enforcement system whitewashes them. Given this sweeping support and the lack of accountability for these deaths, such incidents will continue.