Amnesty International has renewed its call for an arms embargo to be imposed on Israel after soldiers responded violently to unarmed protesters on the Gaza border.
Some 45 Palestinians have been killed in the past five weeks of demonstrations as part of the Great March or Return, three of whom died in separate incidents yesterday as they continued to protest at different areas of the border. Some 5,511 others, including at least 592 children have been wounded in what Amnesty called a “disproportionate response” to Gazans calling for their collective right to return to their homeland.
“The time for symbolic statements of condemnation is now over. The international community must act concretely and stop the delivery of arms and military equipment to Israel,” Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement.
The international NGO detailed evidence of several cases where Israel has shot at Palestinians from behind, citing video footage of the deaths of 19-year-old Abdul-Fattah Abdul-Nabi and 14-year-old Mohammad Ayyoub, both of whom were shot in the back of the head as they ran away from the fence.
Amnesty also noted the severity of many of the injuries caused by Israeli forces; over 1,700 people have been injured as a result of live fire, causing wounds that Gaza doctors say they have not seen since Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” in 2014.
Many protesters have been shot in their lower limbs, particularly their knees, suggesting that Israeli forces are intentionally intending to inflict life-changing injuries.
Gaza’s hospitals and medical personnel have struggled to deal with the influx of casualties each week, further highlighting the Strip’s strained resources in the eleventh year of the blockade. Paramedics also told Amnesty of difficulties evacuating injured protesters due to the Israeli army firing tear gas canisters at them and near field hospitals. Some 44 medics have been wounded and 19 ambulances attacked in the past month.
Amnesty also highlighted Israel’s shooting of reporters Yaser Murtaja and Ahmad Abu Hussein, despite both being clearly wearing vests with the word “PRESS” clearly visible. Some 66 other journalists have been wounded since the march began.
Unless Israel ensures effective and independent investigations resulting in criminal prosecutions of those responsible, the International Criminal Court must open a formal investigation into these killings and serious injuries as possible war crimes and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice
Israel has claimed that Hamas is using the protests as a cover to launch attacks against the border fence and that civilians are being used as human shields, however no evidence has been provided to verify this.
On Saturday, international spokesperson for the Great March of Return, Dr Asad Abu Sharkh, rejected the claims, citing the fact that Israeli forces have been “ordered to shoot to kill and maim” those who approach the fence.
The planned six-week protest, which began on 30 March marking Palestinian Land Day, is set to end on 15 May – the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe), in which more than 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced by Israeli forces in 1948.