Israeli violations of International Law during the Gaza Protests

By: Ahmed Abu Fakhida


A Report on the Israeli violations of the International Human Rights Law and the International Humanitarian Law during the March of Great Return in the Gaza Strip on 14/5/2018


Despite the huge advancement in the field of human rights, there still exists some forms of inhumane treatment of civilian populations such as that occurring in Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Israel; the Occupying Power, continues to disregard international law and advance political agenda the principle of humanity and other principles of international law despite the development of the concepts of freedom, and human rights, especially the right to self-determination which, besides the charter of the UN, was well established by the rules international law in addition to the resolutions of the UN General Assembly, which affirmed those people’s right to self-determination and to pursue it by all means at their disposal, and prevented the violation of their basic human rights.

The Israeli history in human rights and international law is sadly full of massive breaches of rules of international humanitarian law, particularly the four Geneva Conventions and its additional protocols, international human rights law, particularly the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the charter of the United nations. The crimes against humanity, war crimes and the violations by Israel in absolute disregard to all of the aforementioned has reached a level where justice is seriously threatened and has gone with no accountability.

The violations committed by the occupation forces that have been infected on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip recently, especially during the March of Return on 14/5/2018 and afterwards, which continued for several days, were not the first and unfortunately there are no indications that they will be the last in light of international inaction that did not hold Israel and its leaders accountable to international justice. Despite the inherent complexity of the issue, the legal means to protect the Palestinian people from the violations and push international justice forward are in existence but lack a serious will to put an end to them.

This report focuses on the international legal point of view and monitors the violations of international law carried out, deliberately, by the Israeli occupation forces during the March of Return on 14/5/2018 and the consequent events. The report does not aim to statistically document the issue but rather focusses on the gross violations taking place during those events. The report will also deal in detail with these violations in terms of their type, severity and legal characterization and conclude with the legal remedies. Most of the violations committed by the occupation forces are considered serious violations which can amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, therefore the report will explain how the occupying power can be held accountable for some of those violations before international justice, particularly the International Criminal Court. Despite the fact that the occupying power has not ratified the majority of the abovementioned conventions, namely The Hague, Geneva conventions and the Rome Statute, the membership of the occupying power in the United Nations was based on its recognition of its Charter the resulting declarations, treaties and conventions, in addition to the fact that the crimes committed by Israel against humanity are not time-barred crimes and therefore would lead to its prosecution sooner or later and holding it accountable in accordance with international criminal legal mechanisms.

Below are details of the violations committed by the Israeli occupation forces against the demonstrators in the incidents called the “March of Return” on 14/5/2018, monitoring and adapting the violations in accordance with international laws and customs, considering that the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT), including the Gaza Strip, are subject to the rules of International Humanitarian Law and the International Human Rights Law. The report will monitor the violations in general and will then specify the articles of the International Law that condemn the occupying forces and show the extent of violation of the rules of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The committed violations and their legal characterization are summarized as follows:

First: Extrajudicial killings, extrajudicial executions and the excessive use of violence (violation of the principle of humanity and other principles) resulting in killing 65 and wounding 4279 Palestinian civilians.

The Israeli occupation forces used excessive force, live firearm and explosive devices in dealing with peaceful demonstrators in addition to using internationally prohibited weapons and targeting demonstrators with the intention of killing or inflicting harm. The result was killing sixty-five Palestinians.

The violations are contrary to the rules of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, especially that the victims have demonstrated a peaceful behaviour, yet the excessive use of live bullets and explosive devices has caused the number of casualties to rise. The Israeli forces used excessive force; 1539 live bullets, 388 rubber-coated metal bullets, 478 other injuries and 1878 gas suffocation cases. 459 admissions to the hospital, 642 children and 243 women. According to the Ministry of Health, 196 cases were found shot in the head and neck, 384 upper limbs, 96 back and chest injuries, 116 pelvic and abdominal injuries, 1496 in the lower limbs and 113 in multiple places all over the body.

Secondly: the use of unnecessary excessive force and internationally prohibited weapons (violation of the principles of discrimination and proportionality)

The Israeli occupation forces indiscriminately targeted peaceful civilians using indiscriminate weapons, causing serious harm to human beings and the environment. It was so self-evident that the peaceful demonstrations did not pose any threat to the lives of Israeli soldiers to justify the level of military reaction. Weapons, missiles, and means of combat have been used to inflict injuries for unjustifiable claims. An excessive use of bullets caused serious damages to the bodies of the victims according to the spokesman of the Palestinian Ministry of Health; Dr. Ashraf al-Qudra. It was sensed from the cause of the injuries and the deep wounds inflicted upon the victims that the intent was either to inflict long term and permanent disabilities or directly lead to death as the type of bullets used penetrates the body and then explodes inside destroying parts of the body. Excessive use of gas was another aspect of this intent. The spokesman of the Ministry of Health added that it is not possible to determine the type of the gas used, but it was noticed that it lead to violent spasm, stress, cough, severe cough, and rapid increase in heart rate, and other symptoms. Rubber-coated metal bullets, which lead to serious health issues, penetrated and lead to fractures in the bodies of the injured, and more than 4 of the injured had their upper limbs amputated and 13 had their lower limbs amputated, according to the report of the Ministry of Health.

Thirdly: Preventing medical and ambulance crews from evacuating the wounded as well as targeting paramedics and journalists (violation of Article 79 of the Protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 1977:

During the March, the Israeli occupation forces targeted medical and paramedical crews. Seven paramedics were injured. The medical teams were prevented on many occasions from evacuating the injured and the murdered bodies from the scene for long hours, in addition to preventing the wounded from receiving treatment and preventing the entry of medicines and sanitary equipment. The Israeli forces prevented medical teams from the Turkish Republic and others from entering the Gaza Strip to evacuate the wounded and bring them to their own hospitals, according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry. The forces even targeted the journalists such as Hamed Abu Hussein, as well as many other journalists, according to several reports issued by the Legal Department of the National Committee for the Great Return March and several other reports from press agencies and human rights organizations.

Fourthly: Targeting civilians, especially children, women and the elderly (violation of the principle of protection of civilians and special protection of certain groups and violation of the Declaration on the Protection of Children and Women in Cases of Emergency and Armed Conflict, 1974)

The Israeli occupation forces targeted only civilians, especially children and women, while suppressing the return march protests. Three children were killed, 642 were injured and 243 women were injured despite the highly advanced military capabilities of the israeli forces are totally capable of distinguishing between the targets, but it seems from the given information that it deliberately chose to target these groups.

Legal characterization of the violations:

  1. Violating the principle of the Right to Life: One of the basic human rights that the Israeli forces have violated through excessive killing disregarding article 3, among others, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, specifically Article 3 that states: “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
  2. Violation of Article 5 of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the UNGA Resolution No. 53/144, 1999 adopted at its fifty-third session.
  3. The obligation to take the principle of humanity into account even while dealing with cases not mentioned in any existing international conventions and treaties. However, the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, Article 27, affirms this principle, stating that: “Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs. They shall at all times be humanely treated.” Article 12 clearly states: “In all cases, the wounded and sick shall be respected and protected by members of the armed forces and other persons referred to in the following Article, such persons shall be treated humanely and cared for by the Parties to the conflict in whose power they may be…”
  4. Protection of the Civilian Population in during armed Conflict: The abovementioned violations breach Resolution No. 2 of the Twenty-sixth International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva in 1995 on the protection of the civilian population in periods of armed conflict, 1949 and the Additional Protocols of 1977.
  5. Violation of Article 3, and the related articles, of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in the Time of War, 1949.
  6. Violation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court of 1998, specifically the preamble and the specification of the crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression, listed in Article 5.
  7. Violation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1987, specifically Article (1) and (4), which stipulate the types of crimes of the Convention and other related articles, which states: “the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person …
  8. Violation of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, which provides for the establishment of a system of laws and rules enjoyed by children worldwide not only in cases of war but also in peace. The Occupying Power’s forces have violated this Convention and others concerning the rights of the child.
  9. Violation of the 1868 St. Petersburg Declaration on the Declaration Renouncing the Use, in Time of War, of specific Explosive Projectiles as well as the Additional Protocol (I) to the Geneva Conventions, 1977, Article 35, which states: “It is prohibited to employ weapons, projectiles and material and methods of warfare of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering.”
  10. Violation of Articles 4 and 5 and the relevant articles of the Hague Convention of 1907 The Convention on Respect for the Laws and Customs of War on Land, articles relating to prisoners of war.
  11. Violation of the prohibition of explosive weapons weighing less than 400 grams and bullets that flatten as soon as they penetrate the human body as well as the Geneva Protocol banning the use of poisonous gases and means of germ warfare and its amendments under the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972 and the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993 to strengthen the 1925 Protocol Through the expansion, production, acquisition, stockpiling and retention of the embargo and the 1980 arms embargo banning the use of shrapnel, laser and incendiary weapons
  12. Violation of Article 51 of the Additional Protocol (I) to the Geneva Conventions, 1977, which states: “… (b) an attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated… “.
  13. In conclusion, the Occupying Power’s forces have violated during the Gaza protests a nonnegligible number of international laws and treaties, starting with the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International conventions on International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law, including the Rome Statute, Geneva and Hague conventions.

To download this report, click here.

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