RNA - Gaza health officials say some 505 people have been wounded, 89 of them by gunshots. They identify the seven dead as males, two of them aged 12 and 14.
At least 191 Palestinians have been killed since the Gaza protests began on March 30 to demand the right of return to lands that Palestinian families fled or were driven from on Israel’s forced creation and war in 1948, and the easing of an Israeli-Egyptian economic blockade. Hamas says Friday’s protest also marked the 18th anniversary of the launch of the last Palestinian revolt against Israel.
As the death toll among Palestinian protesters rises in Gaza, the time has come for the international community to call Israel’s crackdown “deplorable,” and to call for an end to the Israeli military’s “disproportionate” use of force. What happened on Friday is another horrific example of the Israeli military using excessive force and live ammunition in a totally deplorable way. This is a violation of international standards, in many instances committing willful killings constituting war crimes.
The casualties come on what has so far been one of the most violent day of the Great March of Return, a demonstration aimed at drawing attention to the Israeli occupation of Palestinians' land and protesting Israel’s blockade of the small portion of the Palestinian territory that has not been occupied by the Israeli regime yet.
Even a United Nations committee has called on Israel to stop using “disproportionate force” against demonstrators, adding that it is “gravely concerned” that innocent people are being targeted. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights committee has urged the Israeli regime to immediately refrain from causing further casualties, ensure medical treatment for injured Palestinians and lift the illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip.
It is not that hard to define the terrible situation at the Gaza border. It is a civilian protest – in which case opening fire is justified only when there is an imminent threat to life. The peaceful protests are in no way a case of armed conflict, and they don't give any right to the Israeli troops to pull the trigger. To frame it in legal terms, do the laws of human rights or the laws of war apply in this often violent, cross-border situation?
Most UN experts agree that the situation in Gaza is not cross-border violence. The protesters at the border are not armed. Even prominent American and Israeli human rights lawyers like Michael Sfard hold that the laws of war do not apply in this situation and that if the laws of human rights are to apply instead, then the Israeli army has clearly violated them.
Same way, Amnesty International, the global human rights organization, believes that the protests in Gaza should be treated as a public assembly and, therefore, subject to law enforcement rules rather than the rules of armed conflict. Its guidelines on the use of force in such situations stipulate that “in the dispersal of violent assemblies, law enforcement officials may use firearms only when less dangerous means are not practicable and only to the minimal extent necessary.”
According to Fars News Agancy, this position is also endorsed by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which stipulates in a report on the application of international humanitarian law to contemporary armed conflicts that “if a civilian demonstration against the authorities in a situation of armed conflict were to turn violent, a resort to force in response to this would be governed by law enforcement rules.”
Which leads us to this conclusion: There is no need for the use of live ammunition because there is no real and imminent danger to Israeli occupying forces or Israelis along the Gaza border. In the prevailing environment, the usurper regime’s troops have no right whatsoever to shoot the peaceful Palestinian protesters on the mere basis of their participation in the protests or their approaching the fence.
At the same time, there is no basis for applying legal rules and methods of control that are relevant for internal state policing, because parts of Gaza and the surrounding border areas have been occupied by the Zionist regime of Israel. Therefore, it is the Israeli troops and not the peaceful Palestinian protesters that need to withdraw from the occupied Gaza border.