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Israeli Forces Kill Paramedic and Injure 100 Palestinians as Great Return March Enters 10th Week

Sunday, 03 June 2018 12:28
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Volunteer paramedic Razan Al-Najjar, 21, killed by the Israeli occupying forces on 1 June 2018, east of Khuza’a, treats injured Palestinians during the Great Return March For ten weeks, Palestinians have protested as part of the Great Return March, demanding an end to the closure of the Gaza Strip, amounting to unlawful collective punishment, and the realisation of Palestinian refugees’ right of return, as mandated by international law. On Friday, 1 June 2018, for the tenth consecutive week, the Israeli occupying forces violently suppressed peaceful assemblies along the Gaza fence, killing woman volunteer paramedic Razan Ashraf Abd Al-Qader Al-Najjar, 21, and injuring 100 protesters, amongst them 33 by live ammunition. Altogether 13 children were injured in addition to a number of paramedics and journalists.

On Friday, 1 June, between 4:30 and 7:30 pm, Palestinians of all ages continued their active participation in the Great Return March, gathering around the return camp areas set up along the eastern areas of the Gaza Strip, since 30 March 2018, waving Palestinian flags and chanting national slogans. Tens of Palestinian youths approached the fence and threw stones at the soldiers positioned behind it, while posing no imminent threat to their lives. The Israeli occupying forces deployed hundreds of soldiers, positioned behind sand hills elevated above ground level, who again targeted peaceful demonstrators through the resort to excessive force, including lethal force, shooting live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinian protesters.

The killing of woman paramedic Razan Al-Najjar, 21, east of Khan Younis

Volunteer paramedic Razan Al-Najjar, 21, killed by the Israeli occupying forces on 1 June 2018, east of Khuza’a, east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip

At approximately 6:45 pm, Razan Al-Najjar, 21, a volunteer paramedic with the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) was shot in the chest by a live bullet fired by the Israeli occupying forces, while she was on duty providing medical aid to injured Palestinians, at a distance of about 100 metres from the barbed wire, east of Khuza’a, east of Khan Younis. An ambulance transferred the injured paramedic to the European Gaza Hospital in Khan Younis, where she was pronounced dead at approximately 7:00 pm. Al-Haq notes that Al-Najjar had volunteered to provide medical aid to injured Palestinian protesters for ten consecutive weeks and has been present as a first responder in the field, since 30 March 2018, when the Great Return March began.[1]

Al-Haq strongly condemns the Israeli occupying forces’ killing of Razan Al-Najjar, who is the second paramedic to have been killed in the Gaza Strip since 30 March, following the killing of Musa Jaber Abed Abu Hassanein, 34, a paramedic with the Civil Defence on 14 May 2018. Since the start of the Great Return March, the Israeli occupying forces have deliberately targeted medical staff, including paramedics, providing medical aid to injured protesters, as previously documented by Al-Haq. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS), PMRS, and the Union of Health Work Committees, 245 attacks on health workers and 40 attacks on ambulances have been recorded since 30 March 2018, many by live ammunition.[2] Al-Haq recalls that the deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian objects, including medical staff and paramedics, constitutes a serious violation of the laws and customs of war and amounts to a war crime giving rise to individual criminal responsibility under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.[3]

On Saturday, 2 June 2018, the United Nations (UN) Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Jamie McGoldrick, stated that “[t]he killing of a clearly-identified medical staffer by security forces during a demonstration is particularly reprehensible. It is difficult to see how it squares with Israel’s obligation as occupying power to ensure the welfare of the population of Gaza.”[4] Notably, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Palestine stated that Razan Al-Najjar was “wearing her first responder clothing, clearly distinguishing her as a healthcare worker even from a distance”[5] while the World Health Organization provided that “[t]here are clear obligations to safeguard healthcare under international law and these must be respected.”[6]

Accordingly, Al-Haq reaffirms its call for independent, impartial, prompt, thorough, effective, credible, and transparent investigations into all instances of excessive use of force, including lethal force, in the occupied Palestinian territory, notably in the occupied Gaza Strip since 30 March.[7] Al-Haq calls on the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the killing of Razan Al-Najjar as part of the commission of inquiry established under Human Rights Council resolution A/HRC/S-28/L.1 on 18 May 2018, which called for “protecting civilians against any further assaults” during the ongoing Great Return March in the Gaza Strip, since 30 March 2018.[8]

While the Israeli military announced on Saturday, 2 June 2018, that it plans to investigate the circumstances of Razan Al-Najjar’s killing, noting that “[c]ases in which a civilian is alleged to have been killed by IDF fire are thoroughly investigated by the relevant command echelons”,[9] Al-Haq is gravely concerned that the investigation, which will be conducted by the Israeli army will once again shield Israeli perpetrators from prosecution,[10] as in its finding that the Israeli occupying forces were not responsible for the killing of Ibrahim Abu Thuraya,[11] a double amputee shot in the head by an Israeli sniper on 15 December 2017,[12] during demonstrations against the United States recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.[13]

Injury of 100 Palestinians, including 13 children, 33 by live ammunition

Hundreds of Palestinians peacefully demonstrated east of Khuza’a, east of Khan Younis on Friday, 1 June 2018, as part of the same protest in which paramedic Razan Al-Najjar was killed. Resorting to excessive force, including lethal force, the Israeli occupying forces further injured 38 demonstrators, including three children. Amongst them, six were injured by live ammunition and 32 by direct tear gas canister hits, including five paramedics.

Palestinians protest during tenth Great Return March week on Friday, 1 June 2018, east of Khuza’a, east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip – (c) Al-Haq 2018

In the North Gaza Governorate, hundreds participated in the Great Return March protests east of Jabaliya, in northern Gaza Strip, where the Israeli occupying forces injured 19 Palestinians, including four children. Amongst them, four were injured by live ammunition. Ayman Jamal Ahmad Nasser, 33, a paramedic with the Civil Defence was injured by shrapnel of live ammunition in the left leg. Tens of protesters were further injured by direct tear gas canister hits.

In the Gaza Governorate, hundreds of Palestinians peacefully protested east of Gaza City, where the Israeli occupying forces shot live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets and fired tear gas canisters, injuring 28 Palestinians, including four children. Amongst them, 11 were injured by live bullets, three by shrapnel, four by direct gas canister hits, and two by rubber-coated steel bullets. A Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) ambulance was damaged by a gas canister, while journalist Muhammad Imad Muhammad Al-‘Alul, 22, was injured by a gas canister in the chest.

In the Central Governorate, hundreds of Palestinians peacefully demonstrated in the areas east of Al-Breij refugee camp, where the Israeli occupying forces injured seven Palestinians, amongst them five children, including 16-year-old Ahmad Ghanem Ghneim who was seriously injured by a live bullet in the chest. Two Palestinians were injured by direct gas canister hits.

In the Rafah Governorate, hundreds participated in protests east of Rafah, where the Israeli occupying forces again shot live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets and fired gas canisters at protesters. Eight Palestinians were injured, including a child. Seven were injured by live ammunition and shrapnel, while one was injured by a direct gas canister hit.[14]

Continued impunity for Israeli violations and crimes at the UN Security Council

As Israel killed paramedic Razan Al-Najjar and injured 100 Palestinian protesters in a clear demonstration of its continued resort to excessive force, including lethal force, against protected Palestinians, 1 June 2018 marked another failure at the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution calling for the provision of international protection for Palestinian civilians.[15] The draft resolution presented by Kuwait for a vote, which sought to urge the Council to consider “measures to guarantee the safety and protection” of Palestinian civilians, was rejected as a result of a veto by the United States, despite receiving ten votes in favour, a majority of the Council’s members.[16]

On the same day, a draft resolution proposed by the United States was also rejected by three votes against, 11 abstentions, and only one vote in favour, that of the United States itself. The United States intended to place the “primary responsibility” for the man-made humanitarian crisis created in the Gaza Strip on the Hamas authorities,[17] despite it being Israel, the belligerent occupant, who bears primary responsibility for the protection of the occupied Palestinian population in Gaza, which Israel has made uninhabitable through its unlawful blockade, which enters its 11th year this month.[18]

11 years of unlawful closure and blockade are enough

Al-Haq condemns the continued refusal to protect Palestinian civilians at the Security Council and stresses that this is reflective of a perpetual unwillingness to hold Israel accountable. Al-Haq stresses that Israel’s continued commission of grave breaches and serious violations of international law against the protected Palestinian population must be seen against the backdrop of the continued paralysis of the UN Security Council, reflecting the longstanding impunity Israel has been allowed to enjoy and its shielding from accountability, including through the United States veto.

Accordingly, Al-Haq reiterates its call for international action and sanctions against Israel as the only remaining avenue to pierce Israel’s impunity and ensure the protection of the Palestinian people from further violations, including those amounting to international crimes. Accordingly, Al-Haq calls on:

  1. The UN Security Council to trigger Article 41 of the Charter of the United Nations and apply economic sanctions against Israel through the “complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations”;
  2. The UN General Assembly, in light of the continued paralysis of the Security Council, to trigger General Assembly resolution 377 A (V) and collectively agree to take all necessary means to bring to an end Israel’s violations of international law, under the uniting for peace resolution;
  3. The UN Human Rights Council to urgently appoint and dispatch an independent, impartial, and transparent international commission of inquiry, as established by Human Rights Council resolution A/HRC/S-28/L.1 on 18 May 2018, and to investigate all violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including international crimes, committed in the occupied Palestinian territory since 30 March 2018, including on and after 1 June 2018 in the Gaza Strip;
  4. Third States to fulfil their obligations under under Common Article 1 to the Four Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 to “to respect and to ensure respect for the [Geneva Conventions] in all circumstances” and under Article 146 of the Fourth Geneva Convention to prosecute before their own courts perpetrators of grave breaches of international humanitarian law, including those committed in the occupied Palestinian territory before and since the start of the Great Return March on 30 March 2018;
  5. The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to complete her preliminary examination into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Palestine since 13 June 2014 and immediately proceed to open a full investigation into all international crimes allegedly committed in Palestine and to hold perpetrators to account;
  6. Switzerland, as depository of the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949, to convene a meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions, in line with Article 7 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and related to the protection of victims of international armed to “consider general problems concerning the application of the Conventions and of the Protocol” in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in relation to alleged war crimes committed by the Israeli occupying forces in the Gaza Strip since 30 March 2018;
  7. Israel, as occupying power in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, to take concrete action to immediately lift its unlawful closure and blockade of the Gaza Strip, allow unimpeded humanitarian access in and out of the Gaza Strip, and ensure the contiguity of the occupied Palestinian territory and the right of the Palestinian people to freedom of movement therein, thereto, and therefrom;
  8. The international community to impose sanctions on Israel until it brings to an end its prolonged 51-year occupation of the Palestinian territory and fulfils the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to permanent sovereignty over natural wealth and resources and the right of Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons to return to their homes and property, as mandated by international law, seventy years since their mass expulsion and dispossession.

[1] Al-Haq Field Report, 1 June 2018.

[2] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “UN agencies deeply concerned over killing of health volunteer in Gaza” (2 June 2018), available at: https://www.ochaopt.org/content/un-agencies-deeply-concerned-over-killing-health-volunteer-gaza.

[3] See 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.

[4] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “UN agencies deeply concerned over killing of health volunteer in Gaza” (2 June 2018), available at: https://www.ochaopt.org/content/un-agencies-deeply-concerned-over-killing-health-volunteer-gaza.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] 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.

[8] Al-Haq, “Al-Haq Attends 28th Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council on the Situation in Palestine, Calls for Accountability” (22 May 2018), available at: http://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/targets/united-nations/1255-al-haq-attends-28th-special-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council-on-the-situation-in-palestine-calls-for-accountability.

[9] Anna Ahronheim, “IDF investigating shooting death of Palestinian nurse in Gaza protests” (The Jerusalem Post, 2 June 2018), available at: https://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/IDF-probing-shooting-death-of-Palestinian-nurse-558982.

[10] Al-Haq, “Four Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Submit File to the ICC Prosecutor: Israel is Unable and Unwilling to Conduct Genuine Investigations and Prosecutions” (23 December 2017), available at: http://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/targets/international-criminal-court-icc/1164-four-palestinian-human-rights-organizations-submit-file-to-the-icc-prosecutor-israel-is-unable-and-unwilling-to-conduct-genuine-investigations-and-prosecutions-.

[11] See, e.g., Yoav Zitun, “Military Police probe finds double amputee wasn’t killed by IDF snipers” (Ynet News, 28 March 2018), available at: https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5203925,00.html.

[12] 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, “Al-Haq Condemns United States Recognition of Jerusalem, in the occupied State of Palestine, as Israel’s Capital” (6 December 2017), available at: http://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/targets/third-party-states/1156-al-haq-condemns-united-states-recognition-of-jerusalem-in-the-occupied-state-of-palestine-as-israels-capital.

[14] Al-Haq Field Report, 1 June 2018.

[15] UN News, “Security Council fails to adopt competing texts on protection of Palestinian civilians in Gaza” (1 June 2018), available at: https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/06/1011231.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Article 33, Fourth Geneva Convention (1949).