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Update from the 51st Great Return March Protests: Israel Kills Two Palestinians as UN Calls for Accountability

Saturday, 23 March 2019 22:05 Date: 23 March 2019
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Update from the 51st Great Return March Protests: Israel Kills Two Palestinians as UN Calls for AccountabilityOn Friday, 22 March 2019, the Great Return March continued for the 51st week, as the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council adopted the recommendations of the UN Commission of Inquiry, calling on Israel, as occupying power, to “[r]efrain from using lethal force against civilians, including children, journalists, health workers and persons with disabilities, who pose no imminent threat to life”.[1]

Nonetheless, during the 51st week of the Great Return March, the Israeli occupying forces (IOF) killed two Palestinians and injured 179, including 52 children, three journalists, and a paramedic. Of the 179, 100 were injured by live ammunition and bullet shrapnel. On Friday, 22 March, hundreds of Palestinian protesters, including women and children, gathered in the five different return camps located across the Gaza Strip, between 2:30 pm and 6:00 pm, demanding an end to Israel’s prolonged occupation, closure of the Gaza strip, and denial of Palestinian refugees’ right of return. Palestinians peacefully protested by chanting Palestinian slogans, singing national songs, and raising Palestinian flags. Nonetheless, and despite the calls made by the international community, Palestinian protesters were, once again, met with excessive lethal force by the IOF, who fired live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets and gas canisters at unarmed demonstrators.

It should be noted that during the 51st week of protests, most protesters were tens of metres away from the fence, while no one attempted to cross the fence. In limited cases, tens of protesters approached the fence, threw stones, fireworks, and Molotov cocktails towards the IOF, whereas a few others set tires on fire.

Killings

On Friday, 22 March 2019, at approximately 4:40 pm, Jihad Munir Harara, 24, was shot with a live bullet in the head while standing about 100 metres from the fence. He was participating in the Great Return March protests in Malka, east of Gaza city. Jihad was transferred to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza city where he was pronounced dead at approximately 5:35 pm of the same day.

At approximately 5:20 pm, Nidal Abdel-Karim Shatat, 29, was shot with a live bullet in the chest, while standing about 50 metres from the fence, east of Al-Breij Refugee Camp. Nidal was transferred to Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital in Deir Al-Balah, where he was pronounced dead shortly after, at approximately 5:40 pm.

In both cases, Jihad and Nidal were shot by the IOF while they posed no imminent threat to the lives of Israeli soldiers, deployed on the other side of the Gaza fence, despite calls by the UN for such unlawful use of live fire to stop, violating their right to life.

Injuries

In the North Gaza Governorate, hundreds of peaceful protesters, including women and children, gathered at Abu Safiya Hill, east of Jabaliya. The IOF injured 22, including four children, a journalist, and a medic. Amongst the injured, six were wounded by live ammunition, including a journalist, and 16 were received direct gas canister hits, including four children and a medic.

In the Gaza Governorate, peaceful protesters gathered in Malka, east of Gaza city. They were met with excessive use of lethal force by the IOF who were positioned behind the fence, and who fired live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets, and gas canisters towards them. This resulted in 98 injuries, including of 28 children and of two journalists. Amongst the injured, 71 were wounded by live ammunition and bullet shrapnel, including two journalists, whereas seven were injured by rubber-coated metal bullets, and 20 were hit by gas canisters.

In the Central Governorate, hundreds of peaceful protesters, including women and children, gathered east of Al-Breij Refugee Camp. The IOF’s excessive use of force resulted in 32 injuries, including amongst ten children. Of those, 14 were injured by live ammunition and 18 were directly hit by gas canisters.

In the Khan Younis Governorate, hundreds of peaceful protesters gathered east of Khuza’a, east of Khan Younis. The IOF injured 19, including seven children. Six of those injured were hit by live ammunition and bullet shrapnel, and another by a rubber-coated metal bullet. In addition, 12 were hit directly by gas canisters, including one journalist.

In the Rafah Governorate, hundreds of peaceful protesters gathered east of Al-Shouka. The IOF responded to the demonstrations with excessive use of force, injuring eight Palestinians, including three children. Of the injured, three were injured by live ammunition and bullet shrapnel, whereas five were directly hit by gas canisters.

Tens of other peaceful protesters across the five governorates of the Gaza Strip suffered gas inhalation and were treated by paramedics at the protest sites, while some required medical treatment in hospitals.

It should be noted that next week marks the one-year commemoration of the Great Return March. Al-Haq calls on the international community to take immediate action to ensure the protection of the occupied Palestinian population as they exercise their right to peaceful assembly, and to halt further escalations and killings against them, in violation of international law, and in line with their obligations as third States. Al-Haq recalls the adoption of Human Rights Council resolution A/HRC/40/L.25 on 22 March 2019, which called upon “all States to promote compliance with international law and all High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”. Al-Haq further reminds that the aforementioned resolution called on the Office of the High Commissioner in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the Gaza Strip, to “deploy the personnel and expertise necessary to monitor and document the ongoing violations of international law in the context of large-scale civilian protests”.

[1] UN Human Rights Council, Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, UN Doc. A/HRC/40/74, para. 119(a).

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