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B’Tselem campaign urges soldiers not to open fire on Gaza protesters

Israeli occupation forces fire at unarmed Palestinian protesters in the besieged Gaza Strip [Mohamed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

Israeli rights group B’Tselem has launched a campaign calling for Israeli soldiers on the border fence with Gaza not to open fire on the Palestinian demonstrators.

The campaign “sorry Commander, I cannot shoot,” will be advertised in newspapers and will urge soldiers to refuse to open fire on unarmed demonstrators.

Last Friday events soldiers used live fire against unarmed demonstrators during the Great March of Return. Of at least 17 Palestinians killed that day, 12 were killed at the protests. Hundreds more were injured.

B’Tselem said: “The [Israeli] military is preparing for the demonstrations, but instead of attempting to reduce the number of those killed or injured, official sources have announced in advance that soldiers will use live fire against demonstrators even if they are hundreds of meters from the fence.”

“Shooting unarmed demonstrators is illegal and orders to shoot in this manner are manifestly illegal.”

According to B’Tselem, “the responsibility for issuing these unlawful orders and for their lethal consequences rests with the policy makers and – above all – with Israel’s prime minister, defence minister and the chief of staff.”

Read: Israel army to shoot Palestinians within 300m of Gaza fence

It noted that “they are also the ones who bear the obligation to change these regulations immediately, before this Friday’s planned protests, in order to forestall any further casualties.”

The rights group stressed that “it is a criminal offence to obey patently illegal orders. Therefore, as long as soldiers in the field continue to receive orders to use live fire against unarmed civilians, they are duty-bound to refuse to comply.”

B’Tselem said: “The military is not permitted to act as it sees fit, nor can Israel determine on its own what is permissible and what is not when dealing with demonstrators. Like all other countries, Israel’s actions are subject to the provisions of international law and the restrictions they impose on the use of weapons, and specifically the use of live fire.

“The provisions limit its use to instances involving tangible and immediate mortal danger, and only in the absence of any other alternative. Israel cannot simply decide that it is not bound by these rules.”

The use of live ammunition is blatantly unlawful in the case of soldiers firing from a great distance at demonstrators located on the other side of the fence that separates Israel from the Gaza Strip.

“In addition, it is impermissible to order soldiers to fire live ammunition at individuals for approaching the fence, damaging it, or attempting to cross it.”

“Obviously, the military is allowed to prevent such actions, and even to detain individuals attempting to carry them out, but firing live ammunition solely on these grounds is absolutely prohibited.”

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