Amnesty International today warned of a new “zero tolerance” policy by Israeli forces towards Palestinian demonstrators in the occupied Gaza Strip, raising “fears of escalating bloodshed”.
In a statement, the human rights organisation urged the Israeli government “to rein in its armed forces, which have routinely used unnecessary or excessive force during Gaza’s weekly ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations”.
Saleh Higazi, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: “Given Israeli forces’ horrific track record of using deadly force against Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza, as well as journalists, medics and others, the announcement of a ‘zero tolerance’ policy is deeply alarming.”
Higazi added: “There are serious fears that this policy will further sanction the use of deadly force against unarmed protesters during today’s demonstrations, and that Israeli forces will be given carte blanche authorisation to carry out large-scale, unlawful killings escalating the bloodshed.”
Israel has repeatedly used lethal force unnecessarily and excessively against unarmed protesters in shameless violation of international law.
Amnesty’s statement comes in response to a reported new policy agreed on by Israel’s cabinet, instructing Israeli forces to open fire on Palestinians nowhere near Gaza’s perimeter fence.
Israel’s Housing Minister and former head of the Israeli army’s Southern Command, Yoav Gallant, was quoted in Israeli media stating that “the rules of the game are about to change”.
“The three armed conflicts between Israel and Hamas have had catastrophic consequences for the population of Gaza, which continues to suffer from 11 years of living under a brutal blockade,” said Amnesty’s Higazi.
“It is now time the international community shows ‘zero tolerance’ towards Israel’s flagrant contempt for Palestinian lives and disregard for its obligations under international law.”