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Great Return March One Year On: Palestinian Protesters Continue to Peacefully Protest Despite Continued Excessive Use of Force and Killings (Reporting Period: 30 March – 19 April 2019)

Monday, 22 April 2019 09:23 Date: 22 April 2019
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Malka, east Gaza, 30 March 2019, (C) Al-Haq 2019.Since 30 March 2019, Palestinians have gathered every Friday to protest and participate in the Great Return March. In response, the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) have systematically and forcefully suppressed the peaceful protests along the Gaza fence with unnecessary and excessive force, including lethal force. To date, 204 Palestinians, including 46 children, seven persons with disability, three paramedics and two journalists have been killed as a result of Israel’s disproportionate use of force, firing live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas canisters indiscriminately at protesters. The information provided below is based on Al-Haq’s field documentation throughout the Great Return March protests between the one-year mark of the Great Return March, on 30 March, and 19 April 2019.

One-Year Mark: 52nd Great Return March Protests, 30 March 2019

On Saturday, 30 March 2019, between 10:00 am and 6:00 pm, tens of thousands of Palestinians, amongst them children, youth, older persons, women and men, participated in the Great Return March protests across the Gaza Strip. Once again, the protesters reaffirmed the right of Palestinian refugees, who constitute about 75 percent of Palestinians in Gaza, to return to their homes and property, and called for an end to Israel’s unlawful 12-year-long closure of the Gaza Strip.

According to Al-Haq’s field monitoring and documentation, thousands of Palestinian protesters started to gather in the morning hours of Saturday, 30 March 2019, in the five return camps, raising Palestinian flags and chanting national slogans. Some of the youths set fire to tires and threw stones at Israeli soldiers and snipers, deployed in hundreds on sand hills elevated above ground level on the other side of the fence. Palestinian security and police forces were stationed across the five return camps to prevent protesters from approaching the fence. Nevertheless, the IOF resorted to lethal and other excessive force to suppress the protests. They shot live ammunition, rubber-coated bullets and excessively fired tear gas at Palestinian protesters, who posed no imminent threat to the lives of Israeli soldiers.

It should be noted that two days ahead of 30 March 2019, the Israeli military had deployed additional military reinforcements along the fence in the form of three military brigades and an artillery battalion,[1] and 200 snipers.[2] A series of intensive meetings between Egypt and the Higher National Council for the Great Return March, as well as Israel, were held to prevent loss of life during the large-scale civilian protests.[3]

Despite the attempts to minimise loss of civilian life, the IOF’s excessive use of force against unarmed civilian protesters participating in the Great Return March on 30 March 2019, led to the killing of four Palestinians, including two children, and injuring 362 others, amongst them 75 children, seven paramedics, and seven journalists. Of those, 108 were injured by live ammunition and bullet shrapnel, seven of whom are reportedly in critical condition, while 244 were injured by direct gas canister hits.

Killings

On Friday, 30 March 2019, at approximately 7:00 am, Muhammed Jihad Sa’ad, 20, was shot with live ammunition in the chest by the IOF. The bullet exited from his back. Muhammad was standing about 100 metres from the fence in Malka, east of Gaza city, when he was shot. He was pronounced dead at approximately 7:30 am in Al-Shifa Hospital.

On the same day, Bilal Mahmoud Al-Najjar, 16, was wounded by a live bullet in the abdomen at approximately 2:00 pm, while protesting in Khan Younis. He was pronounced dead after attempts to save him in the operation room at the Gaza European Hospital at approximately 10:00 pm.

At approximately 3:00 pm, Adham Nidal Amara, 17, was hit by an explosive object by the IOF which exploded in his face. Adham was standing about 100 metres from the fence in Malka, east of Gaza city. He was transferred to Al-Shifa Hospital. The object fired at Adham had completely destroyed his face. Adham was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital at approximately 3:30 pm.

At approximately 3:30 pm, Tamer Hashim Abu Al-Kheir, 19, was hit by a live bullet in the chest fired by the IOF. He was participating in the protests in Khuza'a, east of Khan Younis. Tamer was transferred to the Gaza European Hospital and was pronounced dead at about 7:00 pm.

Injuries

In the North Gaza Governorate, hundreds of peaceful protesters took part in the Great Return March and Land Day protests in ​​Abu Safiya, east of Jabaliya. The IOF injured 38 protestors, including 12 children and a medic. Amongst those, 36 were wounded by direct tear gas canister hits, including 12 children and a medic. In addition, two protesters were wounded by rubber-coated metal bullets. Dozens others suffocated from tear gas inhalation, some of whom were transferred to hospital.

In the Gaza Governorate, hundreds of protesters, including men, women, and children gathered to protest in Malka, east of Gaza city. They were met with live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas by the IOF who injured 85, including 16 children. Amongst those, 38 were injured by live ammunition and shrapnel, whereas 42 were hit directly by tear gas canisters and five by rubber-coated metal bullets. Dozens others suffocated from tear gas inhalation, some of whom were transferred to hospital.

In the Central Governorate, hundreds of protesters gathered east of Al-Breij Refugee Camp. The IOF’s excessive use of force resulted in the injury of 66 protesters, including 14 children, a paramedic and two journalists. Of those, 15 were injured by live ammunition and shrapnel, including two children, while 48 others were wounded by direct tear gas canister hits, including 12 children, and three by rubber-coated metal bullets.

In the Khan Younis Governorate, hundreds of peaceful protesters gathered for the Great Return March and for Land Day in Khuza'a, east of Khan Younis. The IOF injured 107, including 18 children and two medics. Of these, 37 were hit by live ammunition and shrapnel, whereas 70 others were injured by direct tear gas canister hits. One of the medics was injured by a rubber-coated metal bullet in the face. Dozens others suffocated from tear gas inhalation.  

In the Rafah Governorate, hundreds of women, men and children gathered along the fence, east of Rafah, for the Great Return March. The IOF used excessive force against the peaceful protesters, injuring 66, including 15 children. Amongst those, 18 were wounded by live ammunition and shrapnel, including seven children. Meanwhile, 48 others were wounded by direct tear gas canister hits, including 18 children, five journalists and a medic.

53rd Great Return March Protests, 5 April 2019

On Friday 5 April 2019, at approximately 4:30 pm, hundreds of Palestinians gathered along the fence in the five return camps to protest by chanting national slogans, raising Palestinian flags and setting fire to tires. The IOF employed unnecessary and excessive force, injuring 106, including 30 children and two journalists, with 56 injured by live ammunition and shrapnel. Two journalists were among those injured.

Injuries

In the North Gaza Governorate, hundreds of peaceful protesters gathered in Abu Safiya, east of Jabaliya. The IOF injured 21, including six children. Nine were injured by live ammunition and shrapnel, 11 by direct tear gas hit, including three children, and one by rubber-coated metal bullets.

In the Gaza Governorate, peaceful protesters gathered in Malka, east of Gaza City, to raise Palestinian flags and sing national songs. The IOF’s unnecessary and excessive use of force resulted in 45 injuries, including 10 children. Amongst those injured, 39 were wounded by live ammunition; four were wounded by direct tear gas hit; and two by rubber-coated metal bullets. Dozens others suffocated from tear gas inhalation.

In the Central Governorate, hundreds of peaceful protesters gathered at Al-Breij Refugee Camp. The IOF’s excessive, unnecessary and disproportionate use of force injured 20, including eight children. Amongst the wounded, four were injured by live ammunition and shrapnel, whereas 16 others were injured by direct tear gas canister hit, including a journalist.

In the Khan Younis Governorate, peaceful protesters gathered along the fence and in the return camp close to Khuza'a, east of Khan Younis. Five were injured by direct tear gas canister hits by the IOF, including two children and a journalist.

In the Rafah Governorate, The IOF’s excessive use of force resulted in 15 injuries, including four children, along the fence, east of Rafah. Of those wounded, four were injured by live ammunition and shrapnel, eight by direct tear gas canister hit and three by rubber-coated metal bullets. Dozens others suffocated from tear gas inhalation, some of whom were transferred to hospital.

54th Great Return March Protests, 12 April 2019

The IOF’s excessive use of lethal force on 12 April 2019 killed one Palestinian child and injured 93, including 29 children, 3 paramedics and a journalist. Amongst those 44 were injured by live ammunition and shrapnel. Dozens suffocated from tear gas inhalation, some of whom were transferred to hospital.

The Killing of 15-year-old Maysara Mousa Abu Shallouf

On Friday 12 April 2019, at approximately 5:00 pm, Maysara Moussa Abu Shallouf, 15, was wounded by a live bullet in the abdomen. Maysara was standing about 100 metres from the fence in Abu Safiya, east of Jabaliya in the Northern Governorate. Maysara was transferred to the Indonesian Hospital where he was pronounced dead at approximately 5:55 pm. 

Injuries

In the Northern Gaza Governorate, 20 Palestinians were injured, including nine children and a medic. Of the 20, 11 were shot by live ammunition, including seven children, and seven by direct tear gas hit, and two by rubber-coated metal bullets.

In the Gaza Governorate, The IOF’s unnecessary and excessive use of force injured 31, including seven children, in Malka, east of Gaza city. Amongst those, 20 were injured by live ammunition, 10 by direct tear gas canisters hit and one by rubber-coated metal bullets.

In the Central Governorate, hundreds of peaceful protesters gathered at Al-Breij Refugee Camp. Amongst them, 18 were injured by the IOF, including five children and a journalist. Of these, nine were injured by live ammunition and shrapnel, and eight by direct tear gas canister hit. A journalist was shot with a rubber-coated metal bullet in the hip.

In the Khan Younis Governorate, the IOF responded with excessive use of force against peaceful protesters in east of Khuza’a, east of Khan Younis, resulting in seven injuries, including a child. Amongst those, one was injured by live ammunition and six by direct tear gas canister hits.

In the Rafah Governorate, hundreds of peaceful protesters gathered east of Al-Shouka town, east of Rafah. The IOF injured 17, including seven children and two paramedics. Three of those were injured by live ammunition and shrapnel, including a child, and 14 by direct tear gas canister hits.

55th Great Return March Protests, 19 April 2019

On 19 April 2019, at approximately 2:30 pm, Palestinians in Gaza participated in the Great Return March on Palestinian Prisoner’s Day. Protesters chanted national songs, raised Palestinian flags and set tires on fire. They were met with the IOF’s unnecessary, disproportionate and excessive use of force. In total, 100 peaceful protesters were injured, including 24 children, four paramedics and four journalists. Among those wounded, 33 were injured by live ammunition and shrapnel.

Injuries

In the North Gaza Governorate, hundreds of peaceful protesters gathered in Abu Safiya, east of Jabaliya. The IOF injured nine, including two children. Of those, three were injured by live ammunition and shrapnel, including a child, three by direct tear gas canister hits, including a child, and three by rubber-coated metal bullets. Dozens others suffocated from tear gas inhalation.

In the Gaza Governorate, peaceful protesters gathered in Malka, east of Gaza city. The IOF’s excessive use of force injured 32, including six children. Amongst the wounded, 16 were wounded by live ammunition and shrapnel, 10 by direct tear gas canister hits, and six by rubber-coated metal bullets.

In the Central Governorate, hundreds of peaceful protesters gathered east of Al-Breij Refugee Camp. The IOF’s excessive use of force injured 16, including five children, a paramedic and a journalist. Six of those were injured by live ammunition and shrapnel, including a child. Nine were injured by direct tear gas canister hits, including a child and journalist. The paramedic was injured by rubber-coated metal bullets. Dozens others suffocated from tear gas inhalation.

In the Khan Younis Governorate, the IOF employed unnecessary and excessive use of force against peaceful protesters gathered in Khuza’a, east of Khan Younis, injuring 26, including five children, three paramedics and a journalist. Three of those were injured by live ammunition and shrapnel, including the journalist, 17 by direct tear gas canister hits, including three paramedics, and six were injured by rubber-coated metal bullets. Dozens others suffocated from tear gas inhalation.

In the Rafah Governorate, hundreds of peaceful protesters gathered along the fence, east of Rafah. The IOF retaliated with excessive use of force, injuring 17, including six children and two journalists. Of those, five were injured by live ammunition and shrapnel and 12 by direct tear gas canister hit, including two journalists.

Throughout the protests during the 52nd, 53rd, 54th and 55th weeks of the Great Return March, dozens of protestors were suffocated by tear gas, some requiring hospitalization.

[1] Ahronheim, Anna and Beeri, Tamar, “40,000 Palestinians Protest Along Gaza Border Marking Land Day”, The Jerusalem Post, 30 March 2019, The Jerusalem Post, www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Haniyeh-arrives-at-Gaza-border-demonstration-6000-protesters-along-fence-585223, accessed: 20 April 2019.

[2] Khoury, Jack, “Israel, Hamas Inch Closer to Understanding: Quelling of Violence in Return for Gaza Concessions”, Haaretz, 29 March 2019, Haaretz, www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/palestinians/.premium-egyptians-press-hamas-to-ensure-restraint-on-anniversary-of-gaza-protests-1.7066537, accessed: 20 April 2019.

[3] Khalil, Adam, “Israel makes some concessions in tentative Egypt-brokered deal with Hamas”, Middle East Eye, 1 April 2019, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/israel-makes-some-concessions-tentative-egypt-brokered-deal-hamas, accessed 22 April 2019.

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