On Friday 24 January, at approximately 3:30 pm, Israeli soldiers stationed in military watch towers, located along the northern border of the Gaza Strip, shot a young Palestinian dead in the buffer zone. The Buffer Zone is a no-go area that surrounds the Gaza Strip both on land and at sea. Based on the terms of the November 2012 ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel, which stipulates that Israel must refrain from targeting civilians in the border areas, hundreds of Palestinian youths in the Gaza Strip have entered the buffer zone for both leisure and work purposes.
Nour Muhammad Qaza’r – Beit Lahia – the Gaza Strip
On 24 January, at approximately 2:15 pm, Nour, 19, and two of his friends, Bilal, 20, and Akram, 21, headed to the Bura Abu Samra area, located in the buffer zone on the northern border with Israel. Nour and his friends often visit the area to hike and socialise with friends.
When they arrived at 2:45 pm, the area was completely empty. They parked their motorcycle and climbed a sandy hill, located around 200 metres away from the fence separating the Gaza Strip from Israel. The youths spent some time on the hill talking, taking pictures and wandering around. Meanwhile, they saw another group of young Palestinians arrive in the area for the same purpose. Some of the group moved very close to the fence and hung out there. Nour and his friends decided to approach the fence and take some photos, believing it to be safe, as no military jeeps or soldiers were present at the time.
However, at approximately 3:20 pm, while Akram was taking pictures of Bilal next to the fence, they heard the sound of a gunshot coming from the other side of the border. Fearing that the soldiers would open fire again, the youths ran away. Bilal had been closest to the fence when the gunshot was fired and when Nour looked back, he saw that he was lying motionless on the ground. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 9309 /2014)
Akram Sha’ban ‘Uweida – Beit Lahia – the Gaza Strip
At approximately 3:20 pm, while Bilal was posing for pictures, Akram heard a gunshot coming from the other side of the border. As the youths were running away Akram witnessed his cousin, Bilal, fall to the ground onto his stomach and heard him say “Akram, help me. I’ve been shot”.
Akram thought Bilal was playing a trick on him, as they had been joking around together just moments before. Akram called to Bilal several times but he did not respond so the two youths went back to check on him. As they turned him onto his back they saw that blood was flowing from his chest, his eyes were wide open and his body was lifeless. It was then that Akram realised that the gunshot they had heard had hit Bilal in the chest.
Akram and Nour carried Bilal for almost 300 metres until they reached Akram’s motorcycle. They put Bilal on the back of the motorcycle and drove for two kilometres until they were able to transfer him into a car and take him to Kamal ‘Udwan Hospital in Beit Lahia. Immediately, Bilal was taken to the ICU for resuscitation. However, upon his arrival, Bilal was announced dead. Bilal’s body was buried in Beit Lahia cemetery later that day. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 9308/2014)
The continuous targeting of Palestinian civilians in the buffer zone at sea and on land by the Israeli military constitutes a blatant violation of Israel’s obligations under international law. Al-Haq calls on Israel, as the Occupying Power, to abide by international human rights law when enforcing the restrictions in the buffer zone and refrain from using lethal force against civilians. Al-Haq further calls on Israel to carry out immediate, transparent and impartial investigations into all incidents in which Palestinian civilians have been killed or injured. In addition, Al-Haq reiterates that the closure of the Gaza Strip amounts to collective punishment against the Palestinian civilian population in clear violation of international humanitarian law.
For more information see Al-Haq’s Virtual Field Visit and Interactive Map of the Buffer Zone