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Israel rights groups challenge army's open fire policy in court

April 16, 2018 at 10:15 am

Protestors at the Gaza-Israel border seen on the third consecutive Friday as part of the ‘Great March of Return’, on April 13, 2018 [Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]

Israeli human rights groups are seeking to challenge the army’s open fire regulations in the Supreme Court, as the authorities’ crackdown on Palestinian protests in the occupied Gaza Strip continues.

Yesh Din, along with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Gisha – Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement and HaMoked – Centre for the Defence of the Individual, are “demanding that the Court order the military to revoke the rules of engagement that permit live fire at Palestinian protesters along the Gaza-Israel border even when they do pose a mortal threat”.

According to a Yesh Din statement published yesterday, “the rules of engagement concerning Gaza permit live fire at protesters classified by the IDF as ‘key agitators’ or ‘major disturbers of the peace’, even when these individuals do not pose a clear and immediate threat to human life.”

“The orders also permit soldiers to shoot at demonstrators for merely approaching the Gaza-Israel fence (from the Gazan side),” the group added.

The petitioners have “argued that there is no prohibition on demonstrating in Gaza and that if incidents of violence or attempts to cross the fence occur during demonstrations, they alone constitute civil disturbances of the peace.”

Read: 350 injured as Gazans demonstrate for third Friday in Great March of Return

“In such disturbances,” they add, “the law permits live fire only in cases of immediate mortal danger.”

The petitioners also emphasised that “according to the international laws governing the use of arms, lethal force may be used only to save lives in danger, and not to safeguard any other value. Indeed, only protecting life can justify putting another life at risk.”

Michael Sfard, one of several attorneys behind the petition, “told +972 Magazine that while he had previously filed petitions regarding the army’s use of live fire, those cases were always done after the fact. The current petition is markedly different, he explained, in that it seeks to affect army policy in real time rather than retroactively.”