During the 40th week of the Great Return March demonstrations in Gaza, the Israeli forces continued to use lethal and other forms of excessive force on Palestinian protesters. The documentation by Al Mezan Center for Human Rights shows that on Friday, 28 December 2018, Israeli forces killed one protester, who was mentally ill, and injured 46 other protesters, including four children, two women, one journalist, and two paramedics.
The documentation indicates a trend of use of live ammunition, plastic-coated steel bullets, and tear gas canisters on unarmed protests. Al Mezan’s documentation shows that on Friday 28 December 2018:
- — At 4pm, Israeli forces shot Karam Fayyad, 26, a resident of Khan Younis, with a live bullet in the head at the demonstration in east Khan Younis. He was shot at a distance of 150 meter away from the fence. At 6pm on the same day, Karam, who suffered from mental disorders, succumbed to his wounds and was pronounced dead at the Gaza European Hospital.
- — Ahmed Al-Naqa, 32, a paramedic with the Palestinian Civil Defence, was injured in the chest by a tear gas canister at the demonstration in east Khan Younis.
- — Dalia Abu Reeda, 20, a volunteering paramedic, was injured in the back with a tear gas canister at the demonstration in east Khan Younis.
- — Two ambulances, one for the Civil Defence and the other for the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, were partially damaged as Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters at the demonstration in east Rafah.
- — Mohammed Al-Za’anon, 32, a freelance photojournalist, was injured in the back with a tear gas canister at the demonstration in east Gaza City.
According to Al Mezan’s documentation, since the start of the protests on 30 March 2018, 256 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip. Of the total fatalities, 180 were killed at the protests, including 35 children, one woman, two journalists, three paramedics, and eight persons with disability, including one child. Another 13,526 persons have been wounded, including 2,779 children, 595 women, 153 paramedics, and 139 journalists. Of those wounded, 7,403 were hit by live fire, including 1,366 children and 148 women. The Israeli forces continue to keep the bodies of 11 fatalities, including three minors.
Al Mezan reiterates its strongest condemnation of the use of lethal and other excessive force by the Israeli forces, including sharpshooters, to police demonstrations. Al Mezan expresses deep concern at the continued attacks on unarmed protesters, paramedics and journalists, who are visibly marked as such. Al Mezan stresses that the right to peaceful assembly and free expression are fundamental rights and must be respected. Unarmed protesters not posing any serious or imminent threat to the Israeli forces must not be shot.
Al Mezan urges the international community to take prompt and effective action to ensure respect for international law and provide meaningful protection for unarmed protesters throughout Gaza. The duty to protect protected persons is a principal legal requirement and is, at this point in the conflict, a test of the authenticity of the international community’s commitment to their legal obligations, moral standards and humanitarian objectives vis-à-vis the Palestinian population.
The failure to hold to account perpetrators of human rights abuses encourages the advancement of harmful policies and practices. Al Mezan therefore calls on the international community to support accountability mechanisms and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice in accordance with international law. In this vein, the international community is called upon to support the UN Commission of Inquiry’s impartial and independent investigation into the apparent unlawful deployment of force against the unarmed protesters, journalists and paramedics.