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Gaza: International inquiry needed to stem bloodshed and advance accountability

28th Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the deteriorating human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem

As hundreds gathered in Jerusalem – just this past Monday - to celebrate the move of the U.S. Embassy, a mere 100 kilometers away, Israeli forces, protected by the fence separating Israel from Gaza, fired on Palestinian demonstrators. They killed 60 people and injured well over 1,000 with live fire, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

Israeli forces have shot dead over 100 Palestinians in demonstrations in Gaza since March 30, including 14 children, and injured over 3,500 with live fire.

These staggering casualty levels are neither the result of justifiable force nor of isolated abuses; but foreseeable results of senior Israeli officials’ orders on the use of force.

Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza have challenged Israel’s half-century occupation. Sweeping Israeli restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza, exacerbated by Egypt’s sealed border on the south, have crippled the economy, fed a humanitarian crisis and snuffed out young people’s hope for a brighter future.

While Israeli forces can use non-lethal means to prevent unauthorized crossings of borders, international law prohibits the deliberate use of lethal force in policing situations except when necessary to stave off an immediate threat to life. 

Israeli officials have rejected the international law standard, saying they are justified in firing with live ammunition to prevent violent demonstrators from penetrating the border and attacking Israelis in nearby towns. They have ordered soldiers to fire on anyone who enters an expansive “no go” area inside Gaza, “instigates” demonstrations, or damages security infrastructure. These orders have effectively turned the “no-go” zone into a free-fire zone.

Some States claim this Special Session is about targeting Israel. They are wrong. It is about targeting human rights violations. When security forces open fire on protestors who pose no imminent threat, they should expect scrutiny by this Council.

Human Rights Watch urges all Council Members to put principle before politics and support an international inquiry into this latest bloodshed.


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