‘Bloody Monday’ - Documentation of the Shoot-to-kill, Egregious Killings Committed by the Israel Occupying Force (IOF) on 14 May 2018

Saturday, 26 May 2018 09:13

In the eighth consecutive week of the Great Return March, the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) continued and increased their use of lethal force against peaceful protestors in the Gaza Strip. Between 30 March and 23 May, Al-Haq documented 118 killings in the Gaza Strip by the Israel Occupying Force, of these 100 were civilians. On 14 May, 61 Palestinians were killed on the border area of the Gaza Strip, in one of the bloodiest days since the beginning of the march, including three who died some days later from injuries sustained on the day. As United States (US) and Israeli officials celebrated the unlawful relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem, the IOF opened fire on unarmed civilians, killing seven children, a person with disability, and injuring 1,861 Palestinians, including 314 children and 88 women, amongst them 1,286 injured by live fire, of which 70 injuries were described as critical. [1]

The killing of Fadi Hasan Abu Salmi (Abu Saleh), 30

Fadi Hasan Abu Salmi (Abu Saleh), 30, married and a father of 5 children, was left disabled from an injury in 2008, when Israel shelled the town of Abasan. On 14 May 2018, Fadi was shot by a live bullet in the chest, east of Abasan Al-Jadida, east of Khan Younis. Nidal Omar Abu Muteir, 29,  Fadi’s friend, had been participating in the protests since 30 March. On 14 May, Fadi continued to participated in the Great Return March in the town of Khuza'a until 12:30 pm, during which time he helped to distribute meals to the camp's medical points, using his three-wheel handicapped bike. He then accompanied his friends; Nidal and Hasan, and headed north, to the newly set up place for protestors, east of Abasan Al-Jadida town. Nidal describes:

“Before we reached the gathering area of protestors, there was an olive tree around 80-100 metres away from the protestors, I asked Fadi to stay there, because we were hearing heavy live bullets being fired. Fadi stopped about 250-300 meters away from the border. He told us that he would pray under the tree. He was sitting on his bike and was completely exposed to the border.  I walked with my other friend north towards the gathering place. Once we left him and walked about 10 meters, I heard a live bullet coming from the border area and I heard a loud crash. I thought that the bullet hit the bike, but when I turned, I saw Fadi lying on the ground on his back beside his bike. I rushed towards him with Hasan. When we arrived, I saw blood gushing out of his chest, his clothes were full of blood and he was motionless.” (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 360/2018)

Fadi was transferred the Gaza European Hospital in Khan Yunis and was immediately pronounced dead.

The killing of Saeed Muhammad Abu Al-Kheir, 15

Saeed Muhammad Hussein Abu Al-Kheir, 65, the grandfather of Saeed Muhammad Saeed Abu Al-Kheir, 15, decided to participate in the peaceful return march on 14 May under his grandchildren’s insistence and pressure, as well as to protest Trump’s decision and to reaffirm the Palestinian’s right to return. The grandfather along with his 5 grandchildren participated in the march east of the Islamic Martyrs' Cemetery, east of Jabaliya, in the northern Gaza Strip. He recalls:

“At around 1:30 pm, my grandson, Saeed asked me to sit with my other grandchildren in the shade, 400 metres away from the border fence. Then, he headed to the east to throw stones near the border fence along with other youths. Suddenly, I heard the sound of random and excessive live bullets towards protestors, and then I saw the protestors dispersed in several directions. Several injured young men were lying on the ground near the border fence, east of Jakar Street. Later, I heard the sound of two explosions of artillery shells fired by the IOF. At the same time, the IOF continued firing live bullets. I saw a young man, Muhammad Al-‘Amoudi, 33, falling to the ground next to me and I saw blood gushing heavily from his head. I helped his family members to evacuate him to the ambulance, when I felt pain in my right arm. I checked myself and saw blood flowing from my arm. Some young men tried to help me. They stood on the road and forced the ambulance to stop. A paramedic said that they were transferring martyrs and serious injuries and had no place, but the young men insisted that I go with the ambulance to the hospital. After I got in the ambulance, it was full of wounded people. Then, my eye spotted one of them. He was my grandson, Saeed. Blood was flowing from his neck. He did not move and showed no signs of life. Paramedics told me he was dead. I started screaming from shock.” (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 358/2018)

Muhammad Saeed Abu Al-Kheir, 15 was announced dead upon arrival at the hospital. His grandfather was injured with shrapnel from live bullets and was treated at the hospital. Saeed Muhammad Hussein Abu Al-Kheir, recalled that he saw the refrigerator room at the Indonesian hospital, packed with a large number of bodies of martyrs who arrived from the same area east of the cemetery of Jabaliya.

The Killing of Muhammad Hani Al-Najjar, 33

Muhammad Hani Al-Najjar, 33, was married and a father of 4 children and worked as an officer in the Palestinian Naval Police. On 14 May 2018, during the Great Return March, Muhammad was shot by a live bullet that penetrated his chest and exited from his back from the right side. Abd Al-Qader Musa Rayyan, 33, and Muhammad Al-Najjar, had been close friends for 18 years, and had both participated in the protest every Friday since 30 March. On 14 May, Abd Al-Qader met his friend Muhammad Al-Najjar at approximately 1:00 pm in the area of Abu Safiya hill, east of Jabaliya, in the northern Gaza Strip, where they wandered among the protestors and watched the events. Abd Al-Qader describes:

“At approximately 4:20 pm, while Muhammad and I were sitting on a hill, about 450 meters from the border fence, and following the events, I heard soldiers firing live bullets at protestors. Muhammad asked me to give him the water bottle to drink. While he was drinking, I saw his body shaking and going backwards and then I saw him putting his hand on his chest and blood was gushing heavily out of his chest.”(Al-Haq Affidavit No. 356/2018)

Muhammad Al-Najjar was evacuated and transferred to the Indonesian hospital in Beit Lahia, where he was announced dead immediately on arrival.

The Killing of Muhammad Ashraf Abu Sitta, 25

Muhammad Ashraf Abu Sitta, 25, was shot by a live bullet in the chest on 14 May 2018, east of Beit Hanoun in the North Gaza Governorate. Muhammad was married and his wife is currently four months pregnant with twins. Khaled Ashraf Abu Sitta, 29, witnessed the killing of his brother, Muhammad:

“At approximately 10:00 am, my brother Muhammad, arrived [at the march]. We spoke for a bit and then he joined a number of youths, who were throwing stones at the Israeli soldiers... After around 15 minutes, while my brother Muhammed was throwing stones at the soldiers… I heard the sound of heavy live bullets firing at the young men. Then, all at once, I saw them all fall to the ground. When a number of protestors and I approached to evacuate them, I saw my brother, Muhammad, lying on the ground. He was bleeding heavily from his chest from the left side and was neither moving nor breathing.” (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 359/2018)

Muhammad was pronounced dead on arrival to the Indonesian hospital in Beit Lahia on 14 May 2018.

The Killing of Sa’adi Saeed Salah, 18

Sa’adi Saeed Salah, 18, was shot in the abdomen from the left side, in the area of Abu Safiya hill. Sa’adi had been participating in the march every Friday, with his cousin, Muhammad As’ad Abu Salah, 23. On 14 May, Muhammad and Sa’adi joined their family to protest in the new Awda Camp, east of Beit Hanoun. Muhammad describes how IOF soldiers fired live bullets at them, killing Sa’adi:

“A number of young protestors decided to go north, because the area we were in was open and there was no place to hide from the bullets of soldiers. My cousin, Sa’adi joined and we walked until we reached the border area in the same area northeast of Beit Hanoun. There we could hide behind a concrete wall from the live bullets of the soldiers and throw stones. At approximately 2:30 pm, I heard a heavy sound of live bullets being fired at us. Then, I saw my cousin, Sa’adi fall to the ground next to me and blood was flowing from the bottom of his abdomen, from the left side. I checked him and I saw a small hole in his abdomen to the left. Then, a number of young men and I carried him and took him to an ambulance. All the way to the hospital, paramedics tried to revive his heart and stop the bleeding. When we arrived at Beit Hanoun Hospital 15 minute later, doctors checked Sa’adi's injury. His father then arrived. He was taken by the doctors to the operating room in an attempt to save his life and about 10 minutes later, doctors pronounced him dead and took him to the Indonesian hospital refrigerators.” (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 355/2018)

 The killing of Taher Ahmad Madi, 24

Taher Ahmad Madi, 24 was married and a father of one. He was shot by a live bullet in the neck, in ​​Malka, east of Al-Zaitoun, east of Gaza city on 14 May 2018. Muhammad Talal Abu Muteir, 20, Taher’s friend and neighbor witnessed his death in the same area.

“At approximately 3:30 pm, while I was standing with Tahir Madi and our friends, next to a large blue tent set up about 350 meters from the border fence, watching the march and exchanging conversations, I heard the sound of live bullets fired from the Israeli soldiers towards the protestors and I suddenly saw Tahir falling on the ground next to me and another two young men falling to the ground, 5 metres away from us.  Then, I checked on Tahir and saw blood flowing profusely from his chest. In the meantime, a number of young men and I took Taher to an ambulance and transferred him to Al-Shifa Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.” (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 354/2018)

Legal Analysis

During the eighth consecutive week, the IOF had killed Palestinians more than in any week since the beginning of the Great Return March on 30 March 2018 or on any day since the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Israel, as belligerent occupant, must guarantee the rights of the protected occupied population, including their rights to life, freedom from ill-treatment, and right of peaceful assembly, which are enshrined in Articles 6, 7, and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),[2] and their status as protected persons under international humanitarian law. [3]  However the policing of peaceful assemblies is governed by International Human Rights Law and regulated by the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. The latter prohibit the use of lethal force unless “strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.”  Meanwhile the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials specifies that the use of force may be justified only when strictly necessary, in line with human dignity and human rights of all persons. [4] The arbitrary and unnecessary killings are contrary to Article 6 of the ICCPR, which ensures that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.” [5] The cases of Muhammad Hani Al-Najjar, who was 450 metres away from the fence drinking his water and posing no threat to armed soldiers was shot by a live bullet that penetrated his chest and exited from his back from the right side and of Tahir Madi, who was 350 meters away from the border fence, watching the march peacefully, when shot in the chest, breaches the principle implicit in the right to life, to use no more force than is absolutely necessary – in the protection of life or in self-defense.

The firing of the artillery shells and the excessive shooting of live bullets, east of the Islamic Martyrs' Cemetery, east of Jabaliya, in the northern Gaza Strip, killed 16 Palestinians, including two children, including Saeed Muhammad Abu Al-Kheir, 15 and injured his grandfather some 400 meters away from the border fence. The artillery shells fired by the IOF targeted protestors approaching the border fence.  The employment of artillery weaponry against unarmed civilians is a grave violation of the requirement for necessity and proportionality implicit in Article 6 of the ICCPR.

The killing of Fadi Hasan Abu Salmi, a disabled man (handicapped) further violates Israel’s obligations to ensure that lethal force is not employed other than in exceptional circumstances where it is “strictly unavoidable in order to protect life,” or in self defence. Fadi, was sitting on his bike, peacefully praying and could be seen from the buffer zone, 250-300 away from where he was sitting. He did not represent in any way an immediate threat to the lives of Israeli soldiers or others, requiring the use of lethal force. Additionally, the IOF’s willful killing of Fadi further violates Article 11 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which calls upon all States Parties to take all necessary measures to protect persons with disabilities in times of risk, including armed conflict. [6]

The cases presented above demonstrate Israel’s unnecessary, indiscriminate and disproportionate use of lethal force against Palestinians, including peaceful protestors. Al-Haq strongly condemns the IOF’s continued suppression of the Great Return March and calls for the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip to be immediately lifted by Israel. Furthermore, the international community must ensure that the right of return of Palestinian refugees is realized, some seventy years since their original expulsion in 1948.

[1] Al-Haq, “14 May 2018: IOF Commit Egregious Killings of 59 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as Great Return March Protests Culminate Ahead of 70th Nakba Commemoration” (16 May 2018), available at: http://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/topics/gaza/1247-14-may-2018-iof-commit-egregious-killings-of-59-palestinians-in-the-gaza-strip-as-great-return-march-protests-culminate-ahead-of-70th-nakba-commemoration

[2] Articles 6,7, and 21 of the ICCPR, available at:http://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx

[3] Article 4, Fourth Geneva Convention.

[4] 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).

[5] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) (ICCPR) Article 6.

[6] Articles 10 and 11, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

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