For the fourth Friday of the Great March of Return and Breaking Siege in the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces continued to use lethal force against peaceful Palestinian civilians, killing four civilians, including a child, and wounding 274, including 41 children, six women and one journalist, and raising death toll to 33, including four children and one journalist in only 22 days
On Friday, 20 April 2018, Israeli forces killed four Palestinian civilians, including a child, and wounded 274 others, including 41 children, six women and one journalist, in addition to hundreds suffering tear gas inhalation, including PCHR’s fieldworkers who were documenting the Israeli forces’ suppression of the entirely peaceful demonstrations near the border fence with Israel, east of the Gaza Strip.
For the fourth week in a row, and upon a decision by the Israeli highest military and political echelons, the Israeli forces used lethal force against the peaceful protesters, who did not pose any threat to the soldiers’ life. Thus, the death toll has risen to 33, including four children and one photojournalist, and the number of those wounded has risen to 2,436, including 410 children, 66 women, 22 journalists and 9 paramedics, since 30 March.
Investigations and observations by PCHR’s fieldworkers during this week emphasize the following:
The Return Camps were relocated 50–100 meters closer to the border fence and surrounded with sand barriers
The Israeli Forces increased the height of the hills on which the Israeli snipers position so they would have a clear view of the area while dozens snipers continued to position behind the sand barriers, hills and military jeeps along the border fence in the eastern Gaza Strip.
In the morning, the Israeli warplanes dropped thousands of leaflets near the protest sit-ins, warning the residents of being targeted if approaching or attempting to damage the border fence. Those leaflets were preceded by Israeli military and political officials’ statements [that] threatened to inflict casualties [on] the protesters and considered that the March itself poses a danger in violation of the right to peaceful assembly ensured in all international conventions.
The Israeli snipers deliberately and selectively opened fire at the participants in the peaceful demonstrations which included thousands of civilians in 5 areas in the eastern Gaza Strip. As a result, four civilians, including a child, were killed and 274 others were wounded, noting that most injuries occur in the demonstration area which is around 50–300 meters away from the border fence.
The demonstrations were as always fully peaceful, and PCHR’s fieldworkers did not witness weapons or armed persons even dressed in civilian clothes among the demonstrators, who were thousands of elderlies, women, children and entire families.
Those demonstrators who moved up to 100 meters closer to the border fence [were] raising flags, chanting slogans and national songs and flying kites in high numbers. The demonstrators also set fire to tires, while in other demonstrations, there were folklore and sports performances in addition to women’s gatherings. However, the demonstrators were under the Israeli fire.
The Israeli forces widely used bursts of tear gas canisters targeting the center of the demonstrations and beyond away from the demonstrators near the border fence. As a result, hundreds, including PCHR’s fieldworkers who were documenting the incidents, suffered tear gas inhalation and seizures; some of them were transferred to hospitals as a number of them still receive medical treatment.
For the second week in a row, the Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters which fell on the field hospital and medical center belonging to al-Barakah Algerian Association in Khuza`ah and its surroundings. As a result, the medical crews were forced to vacate the hospital and center for some time, noting they are 800 meters away from the border fence.
The press crews were directly targeted. As a result, journalist Mohammed Hasan Mohammed al-Sawalhi (40) was hit with a bullet to the right hand and his video camera with which he was covering the incidents in eastern Gaza was hit as well, noting that al-Sawalhi was wearing a blue PRESS-marked vest. The Israeli forces also targeted a car belonging to al-Manarah Press Office while many journalists suffered tear gas inhalation.
PCHR’s investigations point out that the injury of three of those killed was directly to the head and neck while the fourth killed was wounded to the back in addition to the other injuries that were mainly in the head, neck, back, chest, abdomen and limbs. Moreover, there are ten civilians in critical condition, portending that the death toll would rise in any moment.
PCHR’s fieldworkers noticed that the Israeli shooting and tear-gassing at the protesters intensified randomly when some protestors managed to pull parts of the second barbed wires placed inside the Palestinian territories around 50 meters away from the main border fence. As a result, many of them were wounded particularly in eastern Rafah and Khuza`ah.
According to medical sources in the Gaza Strip hospitals […] dealing with the injuries, many of those hit with live bullets suffered large tissue lacerations and big holes in the injured part, indicating the bullets used by the Israeli forces are explosive live bullets.
The incidents today, 20 April 2018, were as follows:
Since early morning, ten thousand civilians, including women and children within entire families, started swarming to five camps established by the Supreme National Authority for the Great March of Return and Breaking Siege in eastern Rafah City; Khuza`ah, in Khan Yunis; al-Buraij, in the central Gaza Strip; Shaja`iyah neighborhood, in Gaza City; and eastern Jabalia, in the northern Gaza Strip.
At approximately 07:00, the Israeli forces early opened fire in eastern Khuza`ah, wounding a civilian. In a similar shooting incident occur[ing] at approximately 11:15 in eastern Jabalia, another civilian was seriously wounded, and his death was immediately declared.
Following the Friday Prayer, at approximately 13:30, the number of participants in the five demonstrations increased, reaching hundred thousand of men, elderlies, women and children. They deployed inside and outside the camps yards, raised flags, and chanted 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 stone. The activities were only about raising the Palestinian flags, chanting slogans and burning the Israeli flags.
The Israeli shooting, which continued until 19:00, according to PCHR’s fieldworkers in the five5 areas, resulted in the killing of four Palestinian civilians, including a child. Three of them from the northern Gaza Strip were around 100–150 meters away from the border fence, east of Abu Sufiyah area, northeast of Jabaliya.
Those killed were identified as:
1. Ahmed Nabil Mohammed Abu ‘Aqel (25) from Jabalia refugee camp was hit with a bullet to the head; part of which was crushed, at approximately 11:15 when he was in northeastern Jabaliya. His death was declared at approximately 13:15.
2. Ahmed Rashah ‘Abdullah al-‘Athamnah (24) from Beit Hanoun was hit with a bullet to the back at approximately 14:40 when he was in northeastern Jabalia.
3. Mohammed Ibrahim Ayoub Ayoub (14) from Jabalia refugee camp was hit with a bullet to the head at approximately 15:45 when he was in northeastern Jabalia.
4. Sa’ed ‘Abdel Majid ‘Abdel ‘Aal Abu Taha (31) from al-Qararah in Khan Younis was hit with a bullet to the neck at approximately 18:00 when he was around 70–100 meters away from the border fence, east of Khuza’ah in Khan Younis.
Moreover, 274 others were wounded, including 41 children, six women and one journalist, in addition to hundreds suffering tear gas inhalation, including PCHR’s fieldworkers, while documenting the Israeli forces’ suppression of the entirely peaceful demonstrations.
Civilians Killed and Wounded during the Last Four Weeks in These Activities
Killed: 33 (4 children,1 journalist)
Wounded: 2,436 (410 children, 66 women, 22 journalists, 9 medical personnel
Among those wounded, 122 in serious condition and 28 suffered amputation of lower or upper limbs 9
PCHR emphasizes that this high number of killings and injuries due to the Israeli forces’ live fire and tear gas canisters is unjustified as civilians who practice their right to peaceful assembly are being targeted. PCHR also stresses that this ongoing policy by Israel violate the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and Fourth Geneva Convention, and its practices qualify as war crimes. Thus, PCHR emphasizes that those involved in issuing decisions and orders in the Israeli forces at the political and security echelons and those applying the orders shall be prosecuted and held accountable.
PCHR hereby 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 Europeans, and so encouraging the Israeli forces to commit further crimes upon an official decision by the highest military and political echelons.
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 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 Depositary 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.
For more information please call PCHR office in Gaza:
29 Omar al-Mukhtar St., al-Rimal
P.O. Box 1328
Gaza, Gaza Strip
Tel: +972 (0)8 282–4776 / 282–5893
This republishes a public document of PHRC.
Photos: Scenes from the Great March for Return and Breaking the Siege on the Gaza Strip, Friday, 20 April 2018. Source: PCHR Field Workers.