Following Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip between 8 July and 26 August, which killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, including 519 children, Israel continues to deliberately target civilians in Gaza. Since 26 August 2014, Al-Haq has documented 27 cases of attacks against civilians, including fishermen, in the Gaza Strip. This has included: the confiscation of five fishing boats, the arrest of 26 individuals, and six incursions by the IOF into southern Gaza, which led to the injury of 9 individuals. Last week Al-Haq documented the killing of a civilian unarmed bird hunter in Jabaliyya near the so-called ‘buffer zone’. Fadel Muhammad Halaweh, 32, is the first civilian killed in Gaza since the indefinite ceasefire between Hamas and Israel was signed in late August 2014.
The buffer zone is an Israeli no-go military area which surrounds the Gaza Strip by land and sea. It constitutes over 17 per cent of Gaza’s territory, including 35 per cent of its total agricultural land, severely obstructing any potential for economic or agricultural development. The precise area designated as the ‘buffer zone’ is not demarcated and Israel has failed to effectively inform Palestinian civilians of the buffer zone’s parameters and the applicable legal regime. Palestinians living and working next to the buffer zone are under constant threat of Israeli live gunfire.
Fadel Muhammad Halaweh – Hayy Al-Manar in Al-Zarqa’ – North Gaza
Fadel Muhammad Halaweh provides for his wife and five children through bird hunting. On 23 November at approximately 6:40 am, Fadel went bird hunting with his friend Abdel-Hadi Abu Zir, 37. The two went to an agricultural land heavily populated by birds, located near the buffer zone in Al-Khour, east of Jabaliyya. There were other farmers and bird hunters in the area at the time.
Fadel and Abdel-Hadi set up their hunting nets approximately 500 meters away from the border fence, and then sat 50 meters away from the fence. They decided to leave the area around 9:00 am when it started to rain. As they were gathering their hunting kit, two gunshots were heard coming from the border area. One of the bullets hit the ground next to Abdel-Hadi’s foot, while the other hit Fadel.
Other individuals in the area, including farmers, helped to move Fadel further away from the buffer zone. Fadel was conscious, but bleeding heavily and in pain. After twenty minutes, an ambulance arrived and Fadel was taken to the Kamal Idwan Hospital in Beit Lahia. There it was determined that Fadel was hit by an explosive gunshot, which entered from the bottom left side of his back and exited through his abdomen. The gunshot caused a laceration in his left kidney and severe internal bleeding, requiring immediate surgery. Two hours later, at approximately 11:30 am, Fadel was pronounced dead. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 10197/2014)
Al-Haq condemns the illegal killing of Fadel Halaweh. Al-Haq also condemns the continued attacks on Gaza that violate the terms of the ceasefire, which specify that Israel will suspend all of its air, land and sea strikes including land-incursions and the targeting of civilians in the Strip. Fadel was unarmed, working, and did not pose any threat to the Israeli Occupying Forces nor was he in the buffer zone. Such continued attacks on civilians living and working near the buffer zone constitute flagrant violations of Israel’s obligations toward protected persons under international human rights and humanitarian law. Israel’s constant targeting of civilians through the use of lethal force violates Palestinians’ right to life. Use of lethal force by security forces can only be justified in cases where there is an imminent threat of death or serious injury to the security officer or third party. Fadel did not pose an imminent threat, and as such, his death meets the criteria of wilful killing. Wilful killing is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and is a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.