On Friday, 06 July 2018, using excessive lethal force against the peaceful protesters in eastern Gaza Strip for the 15th Friday in a row, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian civilian and wounded 396 other civilians, including 24 children, 7 women, 5 paramedics and a journalist, in addition to dozens suffering tear gas inhalation.
Upon a Decision by the highest political and military echelons, the Israeli forces continued to use excessive force against the peaceful protesters, who posed no threat to the life of the soldiers.
Mohammad Jamal Abu Halima, 22, was killed in the artillery bombing which targeted a crowd of protesters at Gaza border east of Gaza City. Others were also injured in the shelling.
According to medical sources, at least 396 Palestinian protesters were either injured by live bullets or suffered from suffocation due to teargas inhalation as Israeli forces continued to crack down on the 15th consecutive Friday of the ‘Great March of Return’ non-violent protests at the Israeli installed barbed-wire fence along Gaza borders.
For his part PCHR said at approximately 16:00, hundreds of civilians, including women, children and entire families, started swarming to 5 encampments established by the Supreme National Authority for the Great March of Return and Breaking Siege in eastern Rafah City; Khuza’ah in Khan Younis; al-Bureij in the Central Gaza Strip; Shija’eyah neighborhood in Gaza City; and eastern Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip.
The number of participants gradually increased, reaching a peak at approximately 16:30, in the five demonstration areas, and they were estimated at thousands of men, elderlies, women and children. They were inside and outside the encampment yards, raising flags, and chanting slogans and national songs in addition to flying kites, while hundreds of them, including children and women, approached the border fence, set fire to tires and attempted to throw stones at the Israeli forces. Moreover, the protestors removed the barbed wire fence established by the Israeli forces inside the Palestinian territories around 50 meters away from the main border fence.
The Israeli shooting which continued until 20:00 resulted in the killing of Mohamed Jamal ‘Eliyan Abu Halimah (22), from Shija’eyah neighborhood in Gaza City. Mohamed was with a live bullet to chest while participating in the protests in eastern Gaza City.
Moreover, 111 civilians, including 24 children, 7 women, 5 paramedics and a journalist, were wounded. In addition, hundreds suffered tear gas inhalation and seizures, including PCHR’s fieldworkers while covering the suppression of demonstrations, after Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters.
PCHR condemns this new crime committed by the Israeli forces, believing it is as a result of Israel’s enjoying impunity thanks to the U.S. and so encouraging the Israeli forces to commit further crimes upon an official decision by the highest military and political echelons.
PCHR emphasizes that continuously inflicting casualties, either killed or wounded, is unjustified and targeting and killing civilians, who exercise their right to peaceful assembly or while carrying out their humanitarian duty, using lethal force is a serious violation of the rules of intentional law and international humanitarian law.
PCHR emphasizes that ongoing attacks against the Palestinian medical personnel, especially those working in the field, constitute a serious violation of the international human rights and humanitarian laws and the international standards regulating the protection rules of medical personnel, including paramedics, their vehicles and medical facilities. The serious violations and deliberate attacks against the medical personnel amount to war crimes according to the 1949 fourth Geneva Convention, particularly the scope of protection provided to them.
PCHR believes that continuously targeting journalists while on duty with bullets and tear gas canisters proves that there is an Israeli policy to target journalists in order to prevent them from covering the Israeli suppression of the peaceful protestors, in violation of the rule of international humanitarian law.
PCHR emphasizes that the demonstrations are fully peaceful and civilians have the right to raise their voices against the Israeli forces and closure and enjoy their right to return. Thus, PCHR stresses that Israel shall be held accountable and prosecuted through investigating with it into these crimes.
PCHR also stresses that this ongoing policy by Israel violates the Rome STATUTE OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT (ICC) and Fourth Geneva Convention, and its practices qualify to war crimes. Thus, PCHR calls upon the ICC Prosecutor to open an official investigation into these crimes in addition to prosecuting and holding accountable all of those involved in issuing decisions and orders in the Israeli forces at the political and security level and those applying the orders.
PCHR asks for the presence of international observers from the United Nations (UN) bodies in the Gaza Strip to make sure that these demonstrations are totally peaceful and even if the Israeli authorities denied their access to Gaza, they can observe from the Israeli side of the borders.
PCHR calls for the prompt formation of an international commission of inquiry according to the UN Human Rights Council’s Resolution to investigate the crimes committed by the Israeli forces against unarmed civilians in the Return March activities.
PCHR also reiterates its call upon the High Contracting Parties to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their obligations under Article 1; i.e., to respect and ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances and their obligations under Article 146 to prosecute persons alleged to commit grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
PCHR calls upon Switzerland, in its capacity as the Depository State for the Convention, to demand the High Contracting Parties to convene a meeting and ensure Israel’s respect for this Convention, noting that these grave breaches constitute war crimes under Article 147 of the same Convention and Protocol (I) Additional to the Geneva Conventions regarding the guarantee of Palestinian civilians’ right to protection in the occupied territories.