-Mark Hage, Vermonters for Justice in Palestine

According to information from a U.N. body and shared by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, at least 206 Palestinians have been shot dead, including 37 children, during protests along Gaza’s eastern and northern boundaries since March, 2018.  More than 7,800 Palestinians have been injured by live fire.

Citing additional data on the crisis in Gaza from the World Health Organization, B’Tselem notes that “physicians have had to perform amputations in 139 cases – 30 of which involved minors and 121 involved the lower limbs. Moreover, 24 people have been left paralyzed as the result of spinal injuries.”

In late July, the Israeli government finally admitted what had been painfully obvious and well documented: its open-fire regulations had led to the deaths of many protesters.

B’Tselem provides this short overview on the regulations and their consequences:

In March 2018, thousands of residents of the Gaza Strip began demonstrating along the fence that separates Gaza from Israel, demanding an end to the siege of the Gaza Strip and the implementation of the right of return. From the outset, following the announcement of the first demonstration, Israel portrayed the protests as an existential threat to the state and regarded the participants as dangerous terrorists.

As a result of this approach, the military implemented lethal open-fire regulations from the first day of the protests: regulations that are patently unlawful and immoral.

As part of this policy, the military permitted the use of live fire against demonstrators on the other side of the fence and [who] posed no danger to anyone, certainly not the armed and well-protected security forces stationed at a considerable distance from them.

B’Tselem urged soldiers to refuse to obey these regulations and to refrain from shooting at unarmed protestors.

“Fine-Tuning” Violence Against Gaza

A senior military officer told Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster:

“At first, we told them [Israeli snipers] to shoot at the leg. We saw that this can result in fatalities, so we told them to shoot below the knee, then we fine-tuned the regulations to shooting at the ankle.”

Adalah, another human rights group in Israel, released this year an Israeli military document which stated snipers are permitted to “shoot a key instigator” in Gaza as he “temporarily moves away from the crowd or rests before continuing his activity.”  The military defines “key instigators” as those directing or ordering activities during protests, such as “tactical placement” and burning tires.

UN Commission of Inquiry: Investigate & Prosecute

In March, a UN Independent Commission of Inquiry released its findings to the UN Human Rights Council on Israel’s military response to the protests in Gaza.

Sara Hossain, one of three investigators on the commission, which was formed after Israeli killed more than 60 Palestinians in Gaza, in May, 2018, said“[Israeli forces] have intentionally shot children, they’ve intentionally shot people with disabilities, they’ve intentionally shot journalists, knowing them to be children, people with disabilities and journalists.” 

The head of the commission, Santiago Canton, asserted that “Israeli security forces committed serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law” in Gaza and that “These violations clearly warrant criminal investigation and prosecution.”

Israel refused to cooperate with the investigators and denied them entry to the country.