The Israeli army’s decision to use live ammunition against Palestinian protesters on the Israeli-Gaza border last week was unlawful and calculated, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released Tuesday.
“The high number of deaths and injuries was the foreseeable consequence of granting soldiers leeway to use lethal force outside of life-threatening situations in violation of international norms,” HRW said in the report.
Eighteen Palestinians were martyred and at least 1,500 others were wounded during the March 30 demonstrations marking Land Day, when tens of thousands of Gazans converged on the Gaza Strip’s roughly 45-kilometer-long eastern border with Israel to reaffirm their right to return to their ancestral homes in historical Palestine.
Dubbed the “Great March of Return,” the protests also intended to pressure Israel to lift its more than decade-long blockade of Gaza.
“The Israeli government presented no evidence that rock-throwing and other violence by some demonstrators seriously threatened Israeli soldiers across the border fence,” the report said.
It is also highlighted that senior Israeli officials had “unlawfully” called for the use of live ammunition before and after the protests.
Rebutting the Israeli army’s claim that Palestinians used firearms during the demonstrations, HRW noted there was no evidence to support it.
“Human Rights Watch could find no evidence of any protester using firearms or any IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) claim of threatened firearm use at the demonstrations,” the report said.
Additionally, Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East director at the organization, said Israeli soldiers were acting on orders, ensuring a bloody military response to the Palestinian demonstrations.
He also slammed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for praising the army and saying his troops were successful in “guarding the country’s borders” and allowing “Israeli citizens to celebrate the [Passover] holiday peacefully”.
“Praising the army’s handling of the March 30 events and saying there shall be no inquiry into how Israeli soldiers gunned down […] protesters across a fence says much about how cheaply Israeli authorities view the lives of Palestinians in Gaza,” Goldstein added.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared Saturday a day of national mourning, according to the official WAFA news agency.
While the Palestinian government condemned the “disproportionate attacks of Israeli forces”, it also called on the international community to help stop the bloodshed.
The UN Security Council on the same day called an emergency meeting to discuss the situation in Gaza and demanded an “independent and transparent investigation” into the Israeli violence.
But it failed to condemn the Israeli violence against Palestinian protesters and a statement was not adopted because of the rejection of the U.S.