The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Tuesday he was “truly shocked” at the killing of a wheelchair-bound amputee by Israeli Security Forces close to the fence between Gaza and Israel last Friday.
Ibrahim Nayef Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh, a 29-year-old man from Gaza who reportedly had both legs amputated after an Israeli attack on Gaza in 2008, was among hundreds of Palestinians who were marching across farmland towards the fence following Friday prayers on 15 December to protest against the United States’ decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He appears to have been killed by a bullet to the head when he was approximately 20 meters from the fence.
“The facts gathered so far by my staff in Gaza strongly suggest that the force used against Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh was excessive,” Zeid said. “International human rights law strictly regulates the use of force in the context of protests and demonstrations. The lethal use of firearms should only be employed as the last resort, when strictly unavoidable, in order to protect life. However, as far as we can see, there is nothing whatsoever to suggest that Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh was posing an imminent threat of death or serious injury when he was killed. Given his severe disability, which must have been clearly visible to those who shot him, his killing is incomprehensible – a truly shocking and wanton act.”
Since President Trump’s 6 December statement on Jerusalem, protests have been held throughout the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in occupied Gaza, as had been widely predicted. The response by the Israeli Security Forces has resulted in five people being killed, hundreds injured and large-scale arrests of Palestinians. The biggest flashpoint has been in Gaza where three people have been killed as protesters burned tires, threw stones, sang songs and waved flags along the fence. Israeli security forces have responded with firearms, including live-ammunition, to disperse the protesters.
The use of live ammunition has resulted in over 220 people being injured in Gaza, including 95 on Friday alone, in addition to tens of others who sustained injuries from tear gas or rubber bullets.
“This level of casualties raises serious concerns as to whether the force used by Israeli forces was properly calibrated to the threat,” Zeid said. “And these events, including the loss of five irreplaceable human lives, can sadly be traced directly back to the unilateral U.S. announcement on the status of Jerusalem, which breaks international consensus and was dangerously provocative. At the same time, I unequivocally condemn all attacks against civilians, including the indiscriminate shelling of Israeli civilian areas by armed Palestinian groups operating out of Gaza,” Zeid added.
The High Commissioner has on a number of occasions in recent years found it necessary to call on Israel to respect international law standards on the use of force, and in particular of live ammunition.
Reports suggest a preliminary internal Israeli army investigation has taken place. Nevertheless, the High Commissioner called on Israel to immediately open an independent and impartial investigation into this incident, and into all others that have resulted in injury or death, with a view to holding the perpetrators accountable for any crimes committed.