On Friday evening, 01 March 2019, in excessive use of force against peaceful protesters on the 49th Friday of the March of Return and Breaking the Siege, Israeli forces wounded 83 civilians, including 23 children, a woman, three paramedics, and a journalist, in eastern Gaza Strip. The injury of three of the wounded civilians was reported serious.
According to observations by PCHR’s fieldworkers, the Israeli forces who stationed in prone positions and in military jeeps along the fence with Israel continued to use excessive force against the demonstrators by opening fire and firing tear gas canisters at them. As a result, dozens of the demonstrators were hit with bullets and teargas canisters without posing any imminent threat or danger to the life of soldiers.
These new violations come one day after The United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate the violations committed in the oPt, published their findings and results during the period from 30 March to 31 December 2018. These incidents confirm that Israel continues to violate the rules of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
It should be noted that The UN Commission found that there were reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli soldiers violated the international humanitarian law and international human rights law during the demonstrations of the Great March of Return. Moreover, these violations may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity, and Israel should investigate them immediately.
PCHR emphasizes that continuously targeting civilians, who exercise their right to peaceful assembly or while carrying out their humanitarian duty, is a serious violation of the rules of international law, international humanitarian law, the ICC Rome Statute and Fourth Geneva Convention. Thus, PCHR calls upon the ICC Prosecutor to open an official investigation in these crimes and to prosecute and hold accountable all those applying or involved in issuing orders within the Israeli Forces at the security and political echelons.
PCHR hereby condemns the excessive use of force and commission of crimes by the Israeli forces despite the prevailed calmness, 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 welcomes again the results of the international investigation into the Great March of Return; and calls upon the UN Human Rights Council to adopt and ratify the report when it is discussed on 18 March at the 40th session of the Council.
PCHR calls upon the Member States of the Human Rights Council to adopt a decision to renew the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry, in the light of the continuation of Return March and the ongoing violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the Israeli forces during the period following the Committee’s work period.
PCHR calls upon the High Commissioner for Human Rights to submit the report to the International Criminal Court.
PCHR reiterates its call for the Prosecutor of the ICC to open an official investigation to these crimes, and to pursue and hold accountable those involved in the issuance of decisions in the Israeli army at the political and security level and who carried out these decisions.
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
Tensions have been running high in Gaza since March 30, when the protests started. Palestinian protesters demand the right to return for those driven out of their homeland by Israeli aggression. They also demand a halt to Israel’s inhumane blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The clashes in Gaza reached their peak on May 14, the eve of the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day, or the Day of Catastrophe, which coincided this year with Washington’s relocation of its embassy from Tel Aviv to the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds.
More than 260 Palestinians have so far been killed and at least 26,000 others wounded in the renewed Gaza clashes, according to the latest figures released by the Gazan Health Ministry.