A Paramedic was hit with teargas by Israeli military while he was tending to wounded protesters near Gaza’s border fence.
In Gaza alone, Israeli forces have killed 13 Palestinians, including five children, and injured 45 medics and paramedics along with 30 journalists since March 22, a UN rights body has reported.
UN Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet expressed, in a statement issued on Monday, deep concern over the serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law perpetrated by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in the context of large-scale civilian protests in Gaza.
“The Demonstrations, known as the Great March of Return, have been held along the Israel-Gaza perimeter fence since 30 March 2018, against a backdrop of a drastically deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza”, Bachelet told the UNHRC. “These demonstrations have continued to take place almost every Friday. They have remained largely peaceful”.
“Israeli Security Forces have used tear gas, rubber-coated bullets, water cannon and sound devices, as well as regularly firing live ammunition, against the demonstrators”, she said.
“As a direct result, since 22 March 2019, 13 Palestinians, including five children, have been killed. Just last Friday, two more boys, aged 14 and 17, were killed by Israeli forces’ live ammunition while demonstrating near the fence. Initial monitoring suggests they were killed in circumstances where there was no threat to life or serious injury, and thus the use of lethal force may have been excessive.”
The UN official said that hundreds of others, including health workers and journalists, have been injured. Many have been left with permanent disabilities, including 20 who have undergone amputations, two who have been paralyzed, and six who have permanently lost their vision in one eye.
“These 13 deaths since 22 March follow the killings of 189 Palestinians in the previous 12 months – including 38 children. Since 22 March 2019 a further 859 Palestinians have been injured by live ammunition. Despite representing a significant decrease from the more than 6,800 demonstrators injured by Israeli forces with live ammunition, according to WHO, in the first year of the protests, it is a shockingly high number. The 263 children injured by live ammunition are a matter of deep concern”, warned Bachelet.
“I am also worried about the continued attacks on medical workers by Israel security forces. Since 22 March over 45 first responders have been injured at the fence. Some were shot at with live ammunition while trying to rescue injured demonstrators, despite being clearly visible in paramedic uniforms. During the same period, 30 journalists covering the protests were injured by Israeli forces,” added the UN human rights envoy.
According to Bachelet, Gaza’s already over-burdened health system has been stretched beyond capacity in attempting to deal with so many traumatic injuries, in particular those caused by live ammunition. The situation has been compounded by Israel’s ongoing restrictions on the movement of essential medical equipment and supplies into Gaza. As a result, doctors have sought to refer dozens of injured protesters for treatment outside Gaza. Between 22 March and 31 July, 69 applications for medical permits for injured demonstrators were submitted to the Israeli authorities. Only 12 were approved.
“In the vast majority of cases monitored by my Office, no indication was found that the demonstrators – including children who were killed or seriously injured by live fire – represented an imminent threat of death or risk of serious injury to the Israeli soldiers, or anyone else”, confirmed the UN official.
Bachelet stated that under international law, the use of lethal force in law enforcement operations must be limited to situations in which it is strictly necessary and in accordance with the principle of proportionality. Lethal force should be used only in situations of last resort, specifically as a response to an imminent threat of death or serious injury. Use of force that does not comply with those principles, and which results in death, amounts to arbitrary deprivation of life. Under international humanitarian law, this may constitute an act of willful killing.
“Children must never be the target of violence, and neither should they be put at risk of violence or encouraged to participate in violence”, she firmly stated.
Since the Gaza rallies began in March 2018, hundreds of unarmed protesters have been killed, and thousands more wounded by Israeli troops deployed near the buffer zone.
Demonstrators demand an end to Israel’s 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has shattered the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its two million inhabitants of many basic amenities.