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27 April 2018: Wilful Killings Continue in the Gaza Strip as Impunity Prevails

Monday, 30 April 2018 14:36
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Palestinians participate in fifth week of protests as part of the Great Return March, east of Khuza'a, east of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, 27 April 2018 (c) Al-Haq.In a continuation of Israel’s unremitting suppression of the Great Return March in the Gaza Strip since its launch on 30 March 2018, the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) killed four Palestinian protesters on Friday, 27 April 2018, and injured 453 protesters, including 207 by live ammunition, of which eleven injuries were described as critical. The injured included 69 children, eight women, and five paramedics, one of whom was injured by a live bullet in the leg, in addition to six journalists, one of whom was shot in the right leg. Medical field staff also treated hundreds of cases of suffocation from tear gas inhalation as a result of the IOF’s targeting of peaceful Palestinian protesters throughout the Gaza Strip for the fifth week in a row.[1]

Three Palestinians die from injuries sustained from IOF fire since 20 April 2018

Since 30 March, Al-Haq has documented the killing of 46 Palestinians by the IOF in the Gaza Strip, including 39 during the Great Return March protests, and the injury of over 4,000 protesters, including 569 children, 108 women, and 26 journalists. Since Friday, 20 April 2018, three Palestinians died from injuries sustained from IOF fire during the Great Return March Protests.

Abdullah Muhammad Al-Shamali, a 19-year-old student and resident of Rafah, was shot by a live bullet in the stomach by the IOF at around 5:00 pm on Friday, 20 April 2018, while he was protesting east of Rafah at a distance of at least 250 metres from the fence. Abdullah was taken to Abu Yousef Al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah, where doctors found that the bullet had penetrated his liver and transferred him to the Gaza European Hospital in Khan Younis due to the severity of his condition. As a result of severe internal bleeding, Abdullah underwent two surgeries, was given eight units of blood, and admitted at the intensive care unit, where his condition continued to deteriorate until his death was pronounced at around 11:00 pm on Sunday, 22 April 2018.[2] The IOF injured 37 protesters east of Rafah that Friday, 36 of them through the use of live ammunition.[3]

Tahrir Mahmoud Wahba, 18, a resident of Khan Younis, died of injuries at around 8:00 am on Monday, 23 April 2018, at the Gaza European Hospital in Khan Younis. Tahrir, who was a deaf-mute, had participated in a Great Return March protest along with tens of Palestinian youth and children on Sunday, 1 April 2018, east of Khuza’a, east of Khan Younis, at distances varying between 200 and 250 metres from the main fence. The IOF were positioned some 50 metres behind the main fence, shooting live ammunition and firing tear gas at Palestinian protesters. Around 3:25 pm, the IOF shot Tahrir in the head with a live bullet from the back as he was moving away from the fence behind which the IOF were positioned. He was taken to the Gaza European Hospital in Khan Younis in critical condition, where he remained in the intensive care for 23 days unit until his death was pronounced, last Monday.[4]

At around 3:30 pm, on Wednesday, 25 April 2018, the death of journalist Ahmad Muhammad Ashraf Abu Hussein, 24, was pronounced following his injury during the Great Return March protests on Friday, 13 April 2018, east of Jabaliya, in the North Gaza Governorate. Ahmad, a correspondent for Sawt Al-Sha’ab Radio and a photojournalist with Besan News Agency, was shot by the IOF in the stomach at around 2:00 pm as he was covering the protests at a 200-metre distance from the first barbed fence, despite wearing a distinguishing vest marked with the word “PRESS” and a helmet marked with the word “TV” and carrying a camera. Ahmad underwent several surgeries and remained for two days at the intensive care unit at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza in critical condition. On 15 April, Ahmad was transferred to the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah for further treatment. He was then transferred to the Israeli Tel HaShomer Hospital in critical condition, where he remained in the intensive care unit for six days until his death was pronounced, on 25 April 2018. Ahmad is the second journalist to have been killed by the IOF while covering the Great Return March since its launch on 30 March 2018.[5]

IOF Killings and Injuries on 27 April 2018

Meanwhile, on Friday, 27 April 2018, the IOF continued to target peaceful civilian protesters throughout the eastern areas of the Gaza Strip, despite widespread international condemnation of the Israeli army’s conduct in brutal suppression of the Great Return March. According to preliminary field documentation conducted by Al-Haq’s researchers in the Gaza Strip, thousands of peaceful Palestinian protesters were again subjected to excessive and lethal force by the IOF, who targeted them with live ammunition and tear gas in open areas. The IOF further continued to deliberately target medical personnel and paramedics evacuating injured protesters, as well as journalists covering the demonstrations, despite them being clearly distinguished as members of the press, leaving no doubts as to their civilian character.

On Friday, 27 April 2018, the IOF positioned on sand hills elevated above ground level fired at hundreds of peaceful protesters in the Gaza Governorate, during demonstrations east of the city of Gaza. At approximately 5:30 pm, the IOF shot live ammunition and fired tear gas at protesters, killing Muhammad Amin Al-Muqayad, 20, a resident of Al-Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood in Gaza with a live bullet to the head. At around 5:45 pm, Khalil Na’im Atallah, 21, a resident of Al-Sahaba neighbourhood in Gaza was killed by shrapnel injuries to the neck, head, and the lower left side of his body. In the same protest east of Gaza, the IOF injured 177 protesters, including 25 children and four women, who were taken for treatment to Al-Shifa and Al-Quds hospitals in Gaza. Among them, 96 were injured by live fire, 48 by shrapnel from live ammunition, and three by rubber bullets, while 18 were injured as a result of direct hits by tear gas canisters. Tens of cases of suffocation from tear gas inhalation were also recorded. Among the injured were two photo-journalists Abd Al-Rahman Hani Al-Kahlout, 24, who was injured by live ammunition in the right leg, and Hisham Iyad Hamada, 24, injured in the head by a tear gas canister. Paramedic Mazen Jibril Hasna, 33, was also injured by a live bullet in the leg.

The IOF further shot live ammunition at peaceful protesters in the Khan Younis Governorate, suppressing protests east of Khuza’a, east of Khan Younis. At around 5:30 pm, the IOF killed Abd Al-Salam ‘Eid Baker, 32, shot by a live bullet in the stomach while protesting some 50 metres from the fence. Around 6:10 pm, the IOF injured Azzam Hilal Oweida, 15, a resident of Al-Sheikh Nasser area in Khan Younis, with a live bullet to the head while protesting some 100 metres from the fence. Azzam was pronounced dead at 5:00 am on Saturday, 28 April 2018. During the protests east of Khuza’a, the IOF injured 67 Palestinians, including 16 children and two women, one journalist, and three paramedics. Among the injuries, 22 were by live ammunition, 43 by tear gas canisters, and one by a rubber bullet.

Evacuation of wounded by paramedics, east of Khuza'a, east of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, 27 April 2018 (c) Al-Haq.

In the North Gaza Governorate, the IOF positioned on elevated sand hills fired at peaceful Palestinian protesters east of Jabaliya, injuring 80 protesters, including ten children and two women. Among them, 26 were injured by live ammunition and 53 by tear gas canisters, while tens of others suffered from suffocation as a result of tear gas inhalation. Among the injured was Nihad Fouad Abu Ghalioun, 33, a photographer for the local Forsan Al-Erada Radio, who was hit by a tear gas canister in the back, and a 21-year-old correspondent for Quds Media, hit by a tear gas canister in the head.

In the Rafah Governorate, where hundreds had gathered near the eastern fence, the IOF targeted peaceful protesters east of Rafah, injuring 32 Palestinians, including five children and a journalist. Of the 32 injured, 28 were injured by live ammunition. Field medical staff also treated tens of cases of suffocation from tear gas inhalation. In the Central Governorate, east of Al-Breij, the IOF positioned themselves behind the eastern fence shooting live and rubber bullets and firing tear gas canisters at hundreds of peaceful Palestinian protesters, injuring 97, including 13 children. Among the injured, 35 were by live ammunition. A paramedic was hit by a tear gas canister in the head.

Legal Analysis

For the fifth consecutive week, the international community’s calls on Israel to halt its unlawful targeting of peaceful Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip have gone unheeded, as confirmed by the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights who noted on Friday, ahead of the protests, that the IOF’s conduct “from week to week does not seem to have changed.”[6] In his statement, the High Commissioner reiterated that the killings perpetrated by the IOF may amount to wilful killings, which may be prosecuted as war crimes at the International Criminal Court (ICC),[7] and expressed deep concern “that by the end of today -- and next Friday, and the Friday after that -- more unarmed Palestinians who were alive this morning will have been killed, simply because, while exercising their right to protest, they approached a fence, or otherwise attracted the attention of the soldiers on the other side”.[8]

This week, Israel’s shoot-to-kill practice is again apparent in the targeting of Palestinian protesters in the upper parts of their bodies: Muhammad Amin Al-Muqayad, 20, Azzam Hilal Oweida, 15, and Tahrir Mahmoud Wahba, 18, were shot by a live bullet to the head, Abd Al-Salam ‘Eid Baker, 32, Abdullah Muhammad Al-Shamali, 19, and Ahmad Muhammad Ashraf Abu Hussein, 24, were shot by a live bullet in the stomach, and Khalil Na’im Atallah, 21, was killed as a result of shrapnel injuries in the neck, head, and the lower left side of the body. Again Palestinian protesters were killed without posing any immediate threat to heavily armed Israeli soldiers positioned on sand hills elevated above ground level behind Gaza’s eastern fence. Abd Al-Salam ‘Eid Baker, 32, was killed while protesting some 50 metres from the fence, Azzam Hilal Oweida, 15, was fatally injured while protesting some 100 metres from the fence, while Tahrir Mahmoud Wahba, 18, Abdullah Muhammad Al-Shamali, 19, and Ahmad Muhammad Ashraf Abu Hussein, 24, were shot while some 200 to 250 metres from the fence, in clear violation of the obligation not to resort to lethal force and firearms unless strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.[9]

Notably, the killing of 15-year-old Azzam Hilal Oweida violates Israel’s obligations to ensure the special protection of Palestinian children in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).[10] Since 30 March, the IOF have killed five Palestinian children during the Great Return March in the Gaza Strip. As noted by the High Commissioner: “[i]t is difficult to see how children, even those throwing stones, can present a threat of imminent death or serious injury to heavily protected security force personnel.”[11] The killing of Tahrir Mahmoud Wahba, 18, further breaches Israel’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD),[12] and is particularly concerning as he was shot from behind while moving away from the fence, as in previous cases documented by Al-Haq.[13]

In fact, Israeli officials have confirmed that the killing of Palestinians, including children, during the Great Return March protests in Gaza are calculated[14] and premeditated, as they are the result of specific orders given by Israeli military commanders to soldiers positioned at the fence. On 21 April, in a radio interview, Israeli Brigadier-General and former Head of the Southern Command Staff within the IOF, Zvika Fogel, stated that: “[i]t is not the whim of one or the other sniper who identifies the small body of a child now and decides he’ll shoot. Someone marks the target for him very well and tells him exactly why one has to shoot”.[15] Such statements of intent to commit wilful killings reflect longstanding Israeli impunity for widespread violations of international law committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), including grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Al-Haq is particularly concerned that Israel continues to target journalists who are displaying distinguishing press markings, shooting them in the back and in the neck. On 25 April 2018, a second journalist Ahmad Muhammad Ashraf Abu Hussein, 24, died from wounds inflicted by the Israeli army on 13 April 2018.[15] Of further concern is the introduction of an onerous bill at the Israeli Parliament, to criminalise the filming of IOF soldiers during their service in cases where the filmed content is considered “detrimental to Israeli security”.[17] Israel’s deliberate targeting of journalists and formal repression of press freedom in the OPT is intended to cultivate a climate of impunity for IOF war crimes.

For the fifth consecutive week, and despite warnings by the ICC,[18] the IOF continued to kill and maim Palestinians,[19] amounting to wilful killings[20]  and wilfully causing great injury to body or health,[21] and to suppress peaceful assemblies during the Great Return March in violation of international human rights law[22] and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.[23] Israel’s repressive measures, including the targeting of journalists covering the Great Return March are a form of silencing Palestinians’ legitimate demands for an end to Israel’s unlawful closure of the Gaza Strip, amounting to collective punishment, and its systematic denial to grant Palestinian refugees their inalienable right of return. Al-Haq calls on third States to immediately intervene and take action to impose sanctions on Israel.


[1] For previous documentation by Al-Haq, see: Al-Haq, “30 March: 15 Palestinians Killed, More than a Thousand Injured, as IOF Violently Suppress Palestinian Protestors in the Gaza Strip” (31 March 2018), available at: http://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/topics/gaza/1206-30-march-15-palestinians-killed-more-than-a-thousand-injured-as-iof-violently-suppress-palestinian-protestors-in-the-gaza-strip. Al-Haq, “6 April 2018: 9 Palestinian Protestors Killed, Another by an Israeli Airstrike, Hundreds Injured in the Gaza Strip” (9 April 2018), available at: http://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/topics/gaza/1212-6-april-2018-9-palestinian-protestors-killed-another-by-an-israeli-airstrike-hundreds-injured-in-the-gaza-strip-. Al-Haq, “13 April: Palestinian Determination to Peaceful Protest Continues to be met with Excessive Use of Force by the IOF” (19 April 2018), available at: http://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/topics/gaza/1216-13-april-palestinian-determination-to-peaceful-protest-continues-to-be-met-with-excessive-use-of-force-by-the-iof. Al-Haq, “20 April 2018: Wilful Killing of Four Palestinians, including a Child, and Injury of 252 Protesters in Fourth Great Return March Week” (21 April 2018), available at: http://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/topics/gaza/1218-20-april-2018-wilful-killing-of-four-palestinians-including-a-child-and-injury-of-252-protesters-in-fourth-great-return-march-week.

[2] Al-Haq Field Report, 24 April 2018.

[3] Al-Haq, “20 April 2018: Wilful Killing of Four Palestinians, including a Child, and Injury of 252 Protesters in Fourth Great Return March Week” (21 April 2018), available at: http://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/topics/gaza/1218-20-april-2018-wilful-killing-of-four-palestinians-including-a-child-and-injury-of-252-protesters-in-fourth-great-return-march-week.

[4] Al-Haq Field Report, 15 April 2018.

[5] Al-Haq Field Report, 26 April 2018.

[6] OHCHR, “Gaza deaths: Israel must address excessive use of force, Zeid says” (27 April 2018), available at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22995&LangID=E.

[7] Article 8(2)(a)(i), Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Article 147, Fourth Geneva Convention. Al-Haq, “Al-Haq Condemns War Crimes Committed during Great Return March in the Gaza Strip, Urges International Criminal Court to Open Investigation” (27 April 2018), available at: http://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/targets/international-criminal-court-icc/1222-al-haq-condemns-war-crimes-committed-during-great-return-march-in-the-gaza-strip-urges-international-criminal-court-to-open-investigation.

[8] OHCHR, “Gaza deaths: Israel must address excessive use of force, Zeid says” (27 April 2018), available at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22995&LangID=E.

[9] Principle 9, UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (1990). Article 3, UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials (1979).

[10] Article 38 (1), Convention on the Rights of the Child.

[11] OHCHR, “Gaza deaths: Israel must address excessive use of force, Zeid says” (27 April 2018), available at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22995&LangID=E.

[12] Article 11, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. See also the killing of Ibrahim Abu Thuraya on 15 December 2018: Al-Haq, “Five Palestinians killed during Protests across the OPT since 7 December 2017” (19 December 2018), available at: http://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/topics/right-to-life-and-body-integrity/1161-five-palestinians-killed-during-protests-across-the-opt-since-7-december-2017.

[13] Al-Haq, “20 April 2018: Wilful Killing of Four Palestinians, including a Child, and Injury of 252 Protesters in Fourth Great Return March Week” (21 April 2018), available at: http://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/topics/gaza/1218-20-april-2018-wilful-killing-of-four-palestinians-including-a-child-and-injury-of-252-protesters-in-fourth-great-return-march-week

[14] See IOF tweet referred to in: Al-Haq, “30 March: 15 Palestinians Killed, More than a Thousand Injured, as IOF Violently Suppress Palestinian Protestors in the Gaza Strip” (31 March 2018), available at: http://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/topics/gaza/1206-30-march-15-palestinians-killed-more-than-a-thousand-injured-as-iof-violently-suppress-palestinian-protestors-in-the-gaza-strip.

[15] See Ali Abunimah, “Snipers ordered to shoot children, Israeli general confirms” (Electronic Intifada, 22 April 2018), available at: https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/snipers-ordered-shoot-children-israeli-general-confirms.

[16] See, e.g., Al-Jazeera, “Second journalist covering Gaza rally killed by Israeli forces” (Al-Jazeera, 25 April 2018), available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/04/journalist-covering-gaza-rally-killed-israeli-forces-180425163003132.html.

[17] Middle East Monitor, “Israel calls for punishing those who document army violations against Palestinians” (Middle East Monitor, 12 April 2018), available at: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180413-israel-calls-for-punishing-those-who-document-army-violations-against-palestinians/.

[18] ICC, “Statement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, regarding the worsening situation in Gaza” (8 April 2018), available at: https://www.icc-cpi.int/Pages/item.aspx?name=180408-otp-stat.

[19] Al-Haq, “Israel Deliberately Injures and Maims Palestinian Civilians, Prevents Evacuation of Wounded, and Denies Access to Vital Healthcare Facilities Outside the Gaza Strip” (18 April 2018), available at: http://www.alhaq.org/documentation/weekly-focuses/1215-israel-deliberately-injures-and-maims-palestinian-civilians-prevents-evacuation-of-wounded-and-denies-access-to-vital-healthcare-facilities-outside-the-gaza-strip.

[20] Article 8(2)(a)(i), Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

[21] Article 8(2)(a)(iii), Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

[22] Article 21, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

[23] Principle 9, UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (1990).