Mr. Samir Zaqout from Al Mezan Center for Human Rights provided updates on the latest developments in the Gaza Strip in light of Israel’s continued brutal repression of the Great Return March protests. Mr. Zaqout emphasized that since the early morning hours of Monday 14 May 2018, the IOF continued to use excessive and lethal force against peaceful Palestinian protestors across all governorates of Gaza. Al Mezan also pointed out the premeditated and intentional use of excessive and lethal force, including live ammunition, to maximize the number of casualties amongst peaceful protesters. This is evidenced by the preparations carried out by the IOF in the early hours of the day, which included the leveling of sand hills formed by Palestinians to shield protestors from Israeli bullets and gas grenades.
Mr. Tahseen Elayyan from Al-Haq affirmed that Israel’s premeditated violent repression of the Great Return March protests aims to suppress any attempts by Palestinians to demand and realize their right of return and to self-determination. The IOF’s measures and policies in Gaza, in light of the longstanding impunity, tests both international law, and the international community’s commitment to hold Israel accountable for violations of international law, which amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The failure to intervene to bring to an end Israel’s human rights abuses against the Palestinian protected population are in conflict with third States responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Mr. Mahmoud Al-Franji from PHROC reiterated that by moving its embassy to Jerusalem, the US endorses Israel's policies that undermine Palestinians’ fundamental human rights, including the fundamental right to self-determination, to life, to freedom of movement, and to dignity.
PHROC further emphasized that the IOF’s deliberate and systematic disregard for international humanitarian and human rights law stems from Israel’s longstanding impunity for widespread human rights violations, including grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, embodied in the failure of third States to hold Israel accountable for crimes committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). PHROC further called upon Israel to immediately lift the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, and the international community and its bodies to ensure the protection of the Palestinian population in light of Israel’s escalating violations of human rights. Stressing on the importance of accountability, PHROC called on the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open an investigation into the IOF’s wilfull killing and injury of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the Great Return March protests on 30 March 2018.
PHROC noted that, along with Adalah, it sent letters to member States of the United Nations (UN) Security Council, urging them to take concrete measures to protect the Palestinian population in Gaza, and to lift the unlawful closure. The letters further called on UN Security Council Member States to:
- Convene an emergency Security Council session to address the urgent situation in the Gaza Strip and the unlawful conduct of the IOF;
- Demand that Israel take concrete action to immediately lift its unlawful closure and blockade of the Gaza Strip, and cease all forms of collective punishment imposed on the Palestinian population therein;
- Ensure the protection of Palestinians and that Israel refrains from resorting to the use of lethal force against unarmed civilian protesters;
- Establish an independent and transparent investigation into the IOF’s use of lethal means and methods, resulting in the killing of more than 100 Palestinians and the injury of thousands in the Gaza Strip since 30 March 2018.
PHROC called on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to immediately release a strong statement, condemning Israel’s escalating killing of Palestinians and the high number of civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, PHROC called upon the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to support the call for the convening of an emergency session of the Human Rights Council to examine Israel’s violations of international humanitarian and human rights law during the Great Return March.
To read a full letter please click here