The United Nations’ most senior human rights official has renewed criticism of Israeli forces’ use of lethal violence against Palestinian protesters in the occupied Gaza Strip.
Speaking at the start of the UN Human Rights Council’s 42nd session yesterday, Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, slammed Israeli authorities’ response to protests, in an update intended to cover the period since 22 March 2019.
Since that date, Bachelet stated, Israeli occupation forces have killed 13 Palestinians, including five children, while deploying live ammunition, tear gas, rubber-coated bullets, water cannons and sound devices, against the demonstrators taking part in the weekly “Great March of Return” protests.
The High Commissioner added that “hundreds of others, including health workers and journalists, have been injured”, including many “left with permanent disabilities”. In total, since 22 March, 859 Palestinians have been injured by live fire alone.
The “continued attacks on medical workers” by Israeli forces have left 45 first responders injured at the perimeter fence, including some “shot at with live ammunition while trying to rescue injured demonstrators, despite being clearly visible in paramedic uniforms”.
The 13 Palestinians killed since March follow Israeli forces’ killing of 189 Palestinians “in the previous 12 months”, Bachelet noted, including 38 children.
“In the vast majority of cases monitored by my Office,” said Bachelet, “no indication was found that the demonstrators – including children who were killed or seriously injured by live fire – represented an imminent threat of death or risk of serious injury to the Israeli soldiers, or anyone else.”
Bachelet told the Council that Israeli forces’ use of lethal force contradicts international law, and thus “amounts to arbitrary deprivation of life”, adding: “Under international humanitarian law, this may constitute an act of wilful killing.”
The senior UN official concluded by stressing the need for Israel to “conduct appropriate investigations into the deaths and injuries which have occurred during the demonstrations.”