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2018 Gaza border protests

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2018 Gaza border protests
Part of Gaza–Israel conflict
Gaza Strip map2.svg
Map of the Gaza Strip
Date30 March 2018 – present
(3 weeks and 4 days)
LocationGaza Strip, near the Israeli border
Belligerents

 Gaza Strip

 Israel

Units involved
Gaza Division, reinforced with two brigades and special units.[2]
Strength
Tens of thousands (mostly unarmed)[3] As above
Casualties and losses
41 dead, 4,279 injured (Gaza Health Ministry statements) Damage to border fence

On 30 March 2018, a six-week campaign composed of a series of protests was launched at the Gaza Strip, near the Gaza-Israel border.[4][3] Called by Palestinian organizers the "Great March of Return", the protests demand that Palestinian refugees and their descendants be allowed to return to what is now Israel. Organization of the protests was initiated by independent activists, and has been endorsed and supported by Hamas,[5] as well as other major factions in the Gaza Strip. It is supposed to last between 30 March (Land day) and 15 May (Nakba Day). Five tent camps were set up 500 to 700 meters from the border and were to remain there throughout the campaign. Israeli forces have killed 41 Palestinians since 30 March, a number of whom have been members of various Palestinian militant organizations.[6][7][8][9][10] No Israeli soldiers or civilians have been injured or killed, as of 13 April.[11]

In the first event on 30 March, thirty thousand Palestinians participated in the protest near the border.[8] Most of the demonstrators at the tent camps hundreds of meters from the border demonstrated peacefully, but groups consisting mainly of young men approached the border, rolled burning tires towards the fence, and threw stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli troops.[12][13][14][15][16][12] The camps have remained in place since that day. Comparatively larger protests have been held on Fridays, 6 April, 13 April, and 20 April while smaller numbers attend activities during the week. Beginning on 6 April, Palestinians brought large numbers of tires to create smoke shields for the protests. According to witnesses, Palestinians used stones and Molotov cocktails, while the Israeli military used tear gas and live ammunition.[17]

According to the United Nations, 30 March was the day with the greatest number of casualties in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict since the 2014 armed conflict. The Hamas-run[18][19] Gaza Ministry of Health stated the number of injured on 30 March as 1,416, from live fire, rubber bullets or tear gas intoxication.[20][21][22] Nineteen Palestinians were killed on 30 March or died due to wounds sustained that day.[23] On 6 April, the Ministry reported that 7 Palestinians were killed, 1,350 were injured, and 25 were in critical condition; and that approximately 400 of those injured were hit by live ammunition. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society reported it had treated 700 injuries on 6 April, including 320 from live fire.[23]

Israeli officials stated that the protests were used by Hamas as cover for launching attacks against Israel.[24] According to Israel, eight members of Hamas' Qassam Brigades were among those killed;[25] Hamas has identified five of the dead as Qassam Brigades members.[26] Two men were killed on 30 March by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), about 150 meters from the fence; the IDF said they were armed with AK-47 rifles and hand grenades and were trying to breach the fence.[22]

Israel's use of deadly force has been condemned by human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch,[27] B'Tselem,[28] and Amnesty International,[29] and criticized by United Nations officials.[30][31] Kuwait has proposed two United Nations Security Council statements, which have been blocked by the United States, calling for an investigation into Israel's killing of Palestinian protesters.[32]

Israeli military and civilian leaders have praised Israeli troops for their actions, which they describe as necessary defensive measures.[30]

Background

The principal demand of the protests is the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their own homes, villages and lands in present-day Israel. A majority of Gaza's population consists of unvoluntary refugees from the 1948 Arab–Israeli War and their descendants.[12] Israel has rejected any right of return.[33]

Land Day is an annual day of commemoration for Palestinians worldwide of events that unfolded on 30 March 1976. In response to the Israeli government's planned expropriation of Arab-owned land in northern Israel, local Arab leaders called for a day of general strikes and protests against the confiscation of lands. In the ensuing strikes, six Israeli-Arabs were killed by Israeli security forces and about 100 others were wounded.[34][35][36]

In late 2005, after the Israeli disengagement from Gaza, the Israeli military imposed a "no-go zone" on the interior side of the Israel-Gaza border in response to rocket fire from Gaza falling on Israeli towns.[37] This zone restricts Palestinians from entering "about 17 percent of Gaza's territory, including a third of its agricultural lands", according to Human Rights Watch.[27] According to IDF this is done "to prevent the concealment of improvised explosives and to disrupt and prevent the use of the area for destructive purposes."[38]

The border fence between Gaza and Israel is composed of a crude barbed-wire barrier, a brief gap, and then a 10 foot high "smart fence" with sensors to detect infiltrators. A crowd surging towards the fence could cross the fence in some 30 seconds according to one of the contractors who built it.[39]

Protest organization

In 2011, Ahmed Abu Ratima, a Gazan whose family originally came from Ramla, conceived the idea of mustering people to go peacefully to the separation barrier and call out for their right to return to the homes from which they had been driven, or had fled, in the past. This idea did not take root until 2018, when an event called the Great March of Return was prepared, which would consist of a 6-week period of regular pacific sit-ins, the start coinciding with the annual Land Day commemoration that began on 30 March and continues until 15 May, which mark two events in 1948 on the respective dates: the anniversary of Israel‘s declaration of independence, and Nakba Day, the day of commemoration of the mass Palestinian exodus during the Palestine war.[40]

By March, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the faction of Muhammad Dahlan (who was expelled from Fatah in 2011) had endorsed the protest.[41]

The organizers of the event, including the local government authority Hamas and various Palestinian factions, had encouraged thousands of Palestinians to converge on the Israeli border for the 42nd anniversary, in what was dubbed the "March of Return".[42] While multiple factions have endorsed the protests, they have all participated under the shared symbol of the Palestinian national flag.[43]

Prior violence

In February 2018, four IDF soldiers were injured by an explosive device concealed in a Palestinian flag placed on the Gazan border fence during a Palestinian protest.[44]

In the week prior to March 30, the IDF arrested a suspect who crossed into Israeli territory from northern Gaza; 2 Palestinians were spotted near the now-defunct Karni crossing container port trying to set fire to army engineering equipment close to the security fence; a group of four Palestinians infiltrated Israel near Kissufim; and 3 Gazans armed with grenades and knives crossed the border and were captured some 20 kilometers (12 mi) from the border near Tze'elim.[45][46]

On 25 March, the IDF fired some ten Iron Dome missiles to intercept what the IDF said was high-trajectory machine-gun fire from Gaza towards Zikim.[47][48]

Timeline

30 March – Land day protests

The events of the day were some of the most violent in recent years.[49]

According to The New York Times, prior to the protests the Israeli government began a campaign to hold Hamas responsible for any violence during the protests.[12] To preempt incidents along the border, Israel nearly doubled their forces stationed along there, deploying special units, drones, and 100 snipers with permission to open fire.[12][50]

The Israeli Prime Minister's Arabic spokesman and Defense Minister's Arabic Twitter account warned Palestinians who approached the border of the risk of sustaining serious or life-threatening injury.[51] The Palestinian Health Ministry reported that before the main series of clashes, Israeli artillery fire killed a Palestinian farmer working near the border zone.[12]

Five tent camps were set up 500 to 700 meters from the Israel–Gaza barrier,[52] near the 300m no-go zone imposed by Israel:

  • "An-Nahda area in the east of Rafah
  • "Al-Najar area east of Khuza'a in Khan Younis
  • "Al Bureij camp in the Middle Area
  • "Malaka area east of Gaza City
  • "Abu Safiya in Jabalia and at the checkpoint in Beit Hanoun, North Gaza."[52][53][54]

According to the Israeli military, up to 30,000 people were bused in by the Gazan government to the site of the protest; entire families—‌men, women and children—‌participated in the marches.[55] The majority of the demonstrators in the encampments were away from the border security and did not engage in violence.[12] Hundreds of young Palestinians, however, ignored warnings issued by the organizers and the Israeli military to avoid the border zone.[56] When some Palestinians began throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, Israel responded by declaring the Gaza border zone a closed military zone and opening fire on the Palestinians.[12]

Week of 31 March to 5 April

  • Ahmed Arafa (25), was killed by Israeli gunfire after breaking through the border fence on 3 April. Arafa was a member of the military wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He was reportedly among a group of five individuals present at the fence in a surveillance video, one of whom broke open the fence with a pipe and two of whom crossed through the resulting hole.[57]
  • A Palestinian man was killed by an Israeli airstrike on 5 April after approaching the border fence. The IDF stated that he was armed with an assault rifle and released video footage showing the man walking.[58] The man killed in the airstrike before dawn Thursday had approached the border fence with an assault rifle, the Israeli military said. It released a grainy video showing the armed man walking in the dark.[59]

6 April – "Day of the Tire"

Protest organizers and Hamas called for renewed demonstrations on the Israel-Gaza border the following Friday, 6 April. The IDF stated that it intended to use the same force as the preceding week to prevent infiltrations of Israeli territory.[60]

Between 31 March-6 April, demonstrators gathered tires in Gaza to be burnt on April 6, in preparation for what was dubbed[by whom?] the "Day of the Tire".[61] Israeli officials have cautioned that the mass burning of tires along the border can produce environmental harm.[62]

Thousands of Palestinians joined in the 6 April demonstrations; the IDF estimated their number at 20,000 people.[63]

6 April—12 April

  • On the evening of 8 April, according to the IDF, three Palestinians infiltrated the fence in the Northern Gaza strip, planted two explosive devices, and then quickly returned to Gaza. The IDF fired at the Palestinians with tank fire.[64]
  • In the early morning of 9 April, the IDF said it attacked a military compound belonging to Hamas in the northern Gaza strip in response to the attempted infiltration with explosives. The IDF said Hamas "is solely responsible for what is happening in the Gaza Strip from above and below the ground".[65]
  • In the morning of 11 April, Palestinians set off a bomb near an Israeli construction vehicle adjacent to the Gaza fence. The IDF fired tank shells at positions that according to the IDF belong to Hamas.[66]
  • On 12 April, Mohammed Hamada Hijila (31), who reportedly "engaged in a military confrontation," was killed by an Israeli airstrike east of Shuja'iyya.[67][68]

13 April

Protests on a third consecutive Friday were smaller than prior weeks. The IDF estimated that 10,000 people protested on 13 April.[69] Palestinians attempted to breach the border fence, hurled molotov cocktails and explosive devices, and attempted to fly burning kites into Israeli territory.[70]

14 April—16 April

  • On 14 April, four Palestinians were killed in a blast near one of the protest camps,[71] the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine said that they were members of the organization and that they died during "preparations".[72]
  • Several kites with firebombs attached were flown by Palestinians into Israeli territory, sparking several fires, with at least 3 fire bomb kites located on 14 April. No injuries were caused.[73]
  • On 15 April, the IDF said it destroyed a tunnel that crossed the Gaza-Israel border. There were no reported casualties.[74]
  • On 16 April, additional fire bomb kites were flown from the Gaza strip. One kite started a fire that burned a wheat field on the Israeli side of the border.[75]

20 April

Protests on Friday, 20 April, have been termed the "Women's March of Gaza" and is intended to highlight women's role in protest.[76] The IDF estimates that 10,000 people participated in protests.[77] At least four Palestinian protesters were killed on 20 April,[78] among them a 15-year-old boy, and over four dozen were injured in clashes with Israeli soldiers.[79] Another protester later died of wounds sustained that day.[80] Before the expected protests IDF dropped leaflets over Gaza Strip warning anyone against approaching the fence or attempting to damage it. [81]

Casualties

A total of 34 Palestinians have been reported dead as of 11 April 2018.[82] Gaza Ministry of Health reports indicate that over 4,279 Palestinians have been injured as of 18 April 2018.[83] The World Health Organization (WHO) voiced concern that nearly 350 people may be temporarily or permanently disabled.[84] The head of WHO's Gaza office, Gerald Rockenschaub, described the casualties as overwhelming an already weak health care system: "the deteriorating humanitarian situation is extremely worrying. Hospitals in Gaza are overwhelmed with the influx of injured patients. With further escalations expected during the coming weeks, the increasing numbers of injured patients requiring urgent medical care is likely to devastate Gaza’s already weakened health system, placing even more lives at risk."[83]

30 March

Nineteen or twenty Palestinians were killed on 30 March or died as a result of wounds sustained that day;[85] many of them were reported by IDF to have been members of Hamas.[21]

Over 1,400 suffered injuries according to the Gaza Ministry of Health, with 758 (or 773[86]) reportedly wounded from live fire, 148 from rubber-tipped bullets, 422 from inhaling tear gas and 88 from other causes.[20][87] Medical camps set up within the protests were able to treat 405 of the injured, and transferred 1,010 to hospitals for further care.[52] The Palestinian Red Crescent has also estimated that around 800 people were injured by live fire,[88] while the Israeli military says only a few dozen or so were.[14]

A spokesman from Al-Shifa Hospital stated that of the 284 injured people admitted for treatment, most had sustained wounds from live ammunition, and 70 were under 18 years of age, while 11 were women.[89]

Killed prior to protests
  • Omar Samour (31), a farmer killed around dawn on his own land near Khan Younis, apparently by artillery fire.[87][36]
Killed during the protests
  • Mohammed Naeem Abu Amr (Mohammed Abu Omar, 22, Rafah),[36] a noted sand artist,[90] a member of Hamas' military wing;[26] and according to the IDF, a Hamas military operative involved in tunneling.[21]
  • Ahmed Ibrahim Ashour Odeh (19), a member of Hamas' military wing[26][21]
  • Jihad Ahmed Fraina (33), a member of Hamas' military wing;[26] according to the IDF, the Sheikh Radwan company commander.[21]
  • Mahmoud Saadi Rahmi (33), according to the IDF from Shuja'iyya, and a Hamas operative.[21]
  • Abdul Fattah Abdul Nabi (19, from Beit Lahia) reportedly shot in the back while running away from the border carrying a tire.[20] Israel reported that a "Abd al-Fattah Bahjat Abd al-Nabi" was among the Hamas militants it killed.[21] Al-Nabi's family said he was not a member of Hamas' military wing, and had worked in a falafel shop; his funeral did not involve the honors usually given to slain Palestinian fighters.[91]
  • Ibrahim Salah Abu Shaar (20), according to the IDF, a global Jihad activist.[21]
  • Sari Walid Abu Odeh,[92] a member of Hamas' military wing;[26] according to the IDF, a Hamas operative from Beit Hanoun.[21]
  • Hamdan Isma'il Abu Amsha, according to the IDF, from Beit Hanoun, aged 28, and a member of Hamas' military wing.[21]
  • Jihad Zuhair Abu Jamous: according to the IDF, a member of al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades.[21]
  • Naji Abu Hijir[36][92]
  • Mohammad Kamel Najjar:[36] shot in the stomach near Jabaliya
  • Wahid Nasrallah Abu Samour[87]
  • Amin Mahmoud Abu Muammar (38, from Rafah):[36]
  • Abd al-Qader Marhi al-Hawajri[87]
  • Bader Fayek al-Sabbagh[92] (20): Shot in head, reportedly (according to his brother, who was present) while smoking a cigarette with his brother behind a group throwing rocks.[93]

Died later of fatal wounds suffered on 30 March

  • Faris al-Raqid (29), a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad,[94] was fatally wounded by a shot to the stomach, and who succumbed to his wounds three days later. Islamic Jihad said he was unarmed during the protest.[94][95]
  • Shadi al-Kashif (34), was shot in the head. After six days in critical condition, he died on 5 April.[85]
  • Thaer Muhammad Rabaa (30, of Jabalia refugee camp) was injured by gunfire; he died on 6 April.

Killed and recovered by Israel

Two reportedly armed men were shot:

  • Muhammed Mhareb al-Arabiyeh
  • Musab Zuheir Anis al-Saloul (who according to Hamas's website was a member of their military wing[96])

According to Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, their bodies were left lying on the ground in a buffer zone established by Israel, at the Jahr Al-Dik area inside Wadi Gaza, at a distance of 150 metres from the border, and could not be checked and evacuated due to their proximity to a no-go zone where Israel declared that anyone detected would be at risk of being shot.[97] Israeli forces recovered the bodies and said the two were gunmen, armed with AK-47 assault rifles and hand grenades, had attempted to breach the Gaza-Israel border fence.[21][22] An International Crisis Group spokesman described "two armed Hamas gunmen, separate from the protesting crowds, [who] tried to approach the fence and were killed by Israeli forces."[54]

Israel announced on April 1 that it will hold the men's bodies rather than returning them. Israel is currently seeking the return of Avera Mangistu, Hisham al-Sayed, and Jumaa Abu Ghanima, mentally ill men who wandered into Gaza and who are currently held by Hamas, as well as the bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oren Shaul, soldiers believed to have been killed in the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict. Israel already held the bodies of 24 Palestinians killed in prior incidents.[98]

Descriptions of casualties

According to an IDF tweet on the following day, later deleted:

"Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed."[93]

According to the IDF, at least eight members of Hamas were among the dead, as well as one from the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and one from a Salafist group.[99] According to Hamas, five members of its military wing were among the dead; the organization described them as taking part "in popular events side-by-side with their people."[100][101][102]

Human Rights Watch observers stated with regard to 30 March, "while some protesters near the border fence burned tires and threw rocks, Human Rights Watch could find no evidence of any protester using firearms or any IDF claim of threatened firearm use at the demonstrations." The organization says there is evidence of Palestinians who did not pose any threat to Israeli guards being shot by the Israeli military.[27] B'Tselem described Israeli actions as unlawful and said that "shooting unarmed demonstrators is illegal and the command that allows it is manifestly illegal."[28] The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center published an "initial analysis," which stated that 26 of the first 32 people killed belonged to Palestinian militant organisations.[103] The ITIC report identified 13 of them as belonging to the military wings of these organizations, and 6 as members of the Gaza security forces. ITIC describes these identifications as "based on sources of varying reliability."[104]

6 April

On 6 April, the Ministry reported that 9 Palestinians were killed, 1,350 were injured, and 25 were in critical condition; and that approximately 400 of those injured were hit by live ammunition.[23][105] The Palestinian Red Crescent Society reported it had treated 700 injuries on 6 April, including 320 from live fire.[23]

  • Among those killed was Yaser Murtaja, a 30-year old Palestinian photographer, who, according to Palestinian Health Ministry, was shot in the stomach by an Israeli sniper despite wearing a jacket emblazoned with 'PRESS' to identify him as a journalist. According to the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate, seven other Palestinian journalists were injured by the Israelis during that day's protest.[105] Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said in response that "anyone who flies drones over IDF soldiers puts himself at risk."[106] According to Israeli security sources, Murtaja was an officer in Hamas security apparatus and attempted to smuggle a drone to Gaza in 2015.[107] Hamas, as well as Murtaja's family, denied the allegation.[108]

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported fatalities as follows:

  • "Mohammed Sa’ed Mousa al-Haj Saleh (33) from Rafah was hit with 2 live bullets to the abdomen and chest and died after few hours of his injury east of Rafah.
  • "‘Ala’a Eden Yehyah al-Zameli (16) from Rafah was hit with a live bullet to the neck , east of Rafah.
  • "Osama Khamis Musalam Qdaih (38) from ‘Abasan al-Kabirah in Khan Yunis was hit with a live bullet to the head east of Khuza’ah.
  • "Ibrahim Zeyad Salamah al-‘Aar (20) from al-Nuseirat was hit with a live bullet to the head, east of al-Buraij.
  • "Sedqi Taleb Mohammed Abu ‘Atawi (45) from al-Nuseirat was hit with a live bullet to the head, east of al-Buraij.
  • "Husein Mohammed ‘Adnan Madi (14) from Sheikh Redwan neighborhood in Gaza City was hit with a live bullet to the chest, east of al-Sheja’eyah neighborhood in Gaza City.
  • "Majdi Ramadan Mousa Shabat (38) from Beit Hanoun was hit with a live bullet to the neck, northeast of Jabalia."[109]

One additional protester was fatally wounded on 6 April:

  • Marwan Qudeih (45), from Khan Younis, who was wounded by Israeli fire east of the town, died of his wounds on 9 April.[110][111]

In addition to Murtaja, five other journalists were injured on 6 April, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists: al-Aqsa TV cameraperson Khalil abu Adhreh, freelance photographer Ibrahim al-Za'noun, Sky Press Agency editor Ezz Abu Shanab, and Medi1TV cameraman Adham al-Hajjar were all struck by the Israeli military using live fire; European Press Photo Agency photographer, Saber Nureldine, was struck by shrapnel.[112]

13 April

During a day of protests, Israeli fire killed Palestinian Islam Hirzallah, 28, who was hit by live ammunition to the abdomen.[69][11] Tahrir Mahmoud Wahba, 18, who is deaf, was fatally wounded, and died on 23 April.[10] The Gaza Ministry of Health reported that 969 people were injured by Israeli forces, among them were 67 children, and 223 people hit by live ammunition. Fifteen of the people sustaining live-fire injuries were in critical condition late on 13 April.[113]

20 April

Five Palestinians were fatally shot on by Israeli live fire on 20 April.

  • Mohammad Ayoub, 14, of Al Falouja neighborhood in Jabalia refugee camp, was fatally shot in the head.[114] His brother and cousin, who were eyewitnesses to his shooting, stated that Ayoub was sitting on the ground, then ran to escape the effects of tear gas, at which time he was shot.[115] He died at Al Shifa hospital.[116] Ayoub was the fourth Palestinian child to be killed during the protests.[115]
  • Ahmed Abu Aqel, 25, of Jabalia. Abu Aqel was shot a previous demonstration over US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017. He walks on crutches due to the injury and was on a sand dune 150 meters from the fence at the time of his shooting, according to the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights. Israeli forces fatally shot him to the back of the head.[116]
  • Ahmed Al Athamna, 24, of Beit Hanoun, was fatally shot by bullet to the upper back, according to the Al Mezan Center.[116]
  • Sa’ad Abu Taha, 30, was fatally shot in the neck in eastern Khan Younis. He was approximately 100 meters from the border, according to the Al Mezan Center.[116]
  • Abdullah Shamali, 20, was injured by a bullet to his abdomen east of Rafah, and died on the night of 22-23 April. [117]

The Gaza Health Ministry reported that 445 people were injured in protests, including 96 who were shot with live ammunition.[118] 174 people were hospitalized while the remainder were treated at clinic tents at the protest sites.[118]

Tactics

Palestinian tactics

Observers from the International Rescue Committee and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that the majority of protesters acted nonviolently on 30 March[54] and 6 April.[23] Protest camps are set up 700 meters from the border. Protest actions near the camps have been large, diverse in participation, and peaceful.[119] protesters at the camps are engaged in a sit-in protest organized around their tents. Each tent is labeled with the town or village from which its occupants were expelled.[76] On both of the larger protest days, hundreds of primarily young men have approached or entered the 300 meter exclusion zone declared by Israeli military forces, thrown stones, hurled Molotov cocktails, and attempted to plant Palestinian flags.[23][54] A New York Times account describes the purpose of approaching the fence as "a powerful statement of defiance, bravery and national pride" among Palestinians.[120]

Palestinian protesters have used burning tires to obstruct the sightlines of Israeli snipers and T-shirts and masks to protect themselves from tear gas.[63] Palestinians erected earthen embankments near the 300m mark to protect those further away from Israeli fire.[30] Tent encampments allow protesters to sleep, eat, and live on site. These spaces have hosted religious gatherings, weddings, and often have a festive atmosphere.[121][120] Protest organizer, Ahmad al-Najjar, has described the motivation as follows: "we are trying to practice a normal life here, I believe it is our right to do so."[121]

The Israeli military accused Hamas of using the protests as a guise to launch attacks against Israel, and warned about further reprisals.[24] Israel alleged that Hamas is forcing bus companies to transport people to the border for the 6 April protests.[60] Hamas has been offering payments to families of Palestinians who are wounded or killed during these events.[122]

A Hamas spokesperson promised $3,000 to the relatives of those killed, while Palestinians who were injured by Israeli troops would get $200 to $500 in compensation, depending on the injury.[123]

Israeli politicians have accused Hamas of using protesters as human shields.[60] The United States' Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt stated, with regards to the planned April 6 protest, that "[they] condemn leaders and protestors who call for violence or who send protestors — including children — to the fence, knowing that they may be injured or killed.".[124]

Israeli tactics

The Israeli military has deployed soldiers, including snipers and tanks, to the border. Soldiers have opened fire on Palestinians approaching the fence with tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition.[63] Soldiers are firing from artificial sand berms that overlook the protests.[120]

Israeli tear gas canisters have penetrated more than 300m into the Gaza Strip.[30][60] An investigation by B'Tselem found that Israeli soldiers launched tear gas to the family tents, located 400 to 600m from the fence, causing hundreds of people to suffer injuries.[125] Protest participants interviewed by B'Tselem reported cases of suffering from tear gas inhalation and injury from tear gas canister impacts.[125]

While the IDF has not publicly disclosed its rules of engagement, press reports indicate that soldiers are permitted to shoot armed protesters within 300m of the fence and unarmed protesters within 100m.[120] The IDF has stated that its soldiers are advised to first fire warning shots, then wounding shots, before taking fatal shots.[120]

On 6 April, the IDF used industrial-sized fans to disperse the smoke and then water cannons in unsuccessful attempts to douse fires from burning tires.[31]

Reactions

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared a day of mourning on 31 March.[12]

The escalation of violence in Gaza concerned the entire Arab world. Jordan and Egypt condemned Israel's use of force, considering recent developments as harmful to brokering peace.[126] Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu —‌ leaders with mutual disdain for each other —‌ exchanged heated remarks over the border clashes; Erdogan labeled the Israeli response an "inhumane attack" amid growing international criticism of the Israeli military.[127]

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres observed that the situation "underlines the urgency of revitalizing the peace process aiming at creating the conditions for a return to meaningful negotiations".[128]

Elizabeth Throssell, a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the use of deadly force was largely unjustified, since such force may only be used as a last resort when there is an imminent threat of death or serious injury. "An attempt to approach or cross the green-line fence by itself certainly does not amount to a threat to life or serious injury that would justify the use of live ammunition," the office said.[31][129]

On 4 April, the European Union expressed deep alarm over "the use of live ammunition by Israeli Security Forces as a means of crowd control," and called on Israel to investigate every death and prosecute the perpetrators where appropriate.[130]

On 6 April, The Prime Minister's Arabic-language spokesman Ofir Gendelman tweeted in response to a video showing a flag with a swastika lying between two Palestinian flags, "Hamas terrorists have planted today right on the Gaza-Israel border this Nazi flag which was flying b/w Palestinian flags. Hamas proudly declares that its aim is to annihilate Israel & the Jewish people. The genocidal message has been received. We will defend our country."[131]

Retired colonel Richard Kemp said that it was not a peaceful demonstration, but "a deliberate and specific intent by terrorist organizations to penetrate the state of Israel and kill civilians and the IDF has no option except to use lethal force to stop such a dangerous threat."[132]

On 8 April, Fatou Bensouda, prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, issued a public warning to Israelis and Palestinians that, "Violence against civilians - in a situation such as the one prevailing in Gaza – could constitute crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court ("ICC" or "the Court"), as could the use of civilian presence for the purpose of shielding military activities."[133][134]

On 8 April, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman responded to foreign critcism by defending Israel's conduct. Speaking on public radio, he said, "There are no innocent people in the Gaza Strip. Everyone's connected to Hamas, everyone gets a salary from Hamas, and all the activists trying to challenge us and breach the border are Hamas military wing activists."[135]

Five former IDF snipers, assisted by Breaking the Silence, published a letter expressing "shame and sorrow" for the killings and stating, "Instructing snipers to shoot to kill unarmed demonstrators who pose no danger to human life is another product of the occupation and military rule over millions of Palestinian people, as well as of our country’s callous leadership, and derailed moral path."[136]

Investigations

On 5 April, the IDF announced that its Southern Command would conduct an internal investigation into the deaths of civilians during the prior week.[137] Brigadier General Moti Baruch was appointed to lead a second government investigation.[138] Press reports indicate that Baruch's investigation will focus on incidents which appear to have a cause for inquiry.[138]

Legal cases

Rights groups have pressed for severely injured protesters to be able to receive medical treatment in the West Bank. Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to mandate the government allow medical evacuation. A petition regarding Yousef Karnaz and Mohammad Al-Ajouri was in process when both men had their legs amputated due to inadequate medical equipment in Gaza.[139] The Supreme Court ruled on 16 April that Yousef Al-Kronz must be allowed to exit Gaza for medical treatment in the West Bank.[140]

Solidarity protests

Protests expressing solidarity with Palestinians protesters in the Gaza Strip and condemning the use of lethal force by Israeli forces on protesters appeared across Israel, USA, UK and Australia, with hundreds to thousands people turning up in Tel Aviv, Washington D.C., Boston, London, Manchester, Sheffield, Bristol and Melbourne.[141][142][143][144]

See also

References

  1. ^ Ari Gross, Judah (April 18, 2018). "Kite from Gaza sets fire to wheat field in Israel". The Times of Israel. 
  2. ^ 11 Wounded at Israel-Gaza Border as Palestinians March in West Bank in Solidarity, Haaretz, 1 April 2018
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