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Israeli Occupying Forces Kill Palestinian University Student Posing No Threat During Great Return March Protests - Reporting Period: 22-28 July 2019
05، Aug 2019

Date: 3 August 2019

On Friday, 26 July 2019, 23-year-old university student Ahmad Muhammad Al-Qara from Bani Suhaila in Khan Younes was announced dead at the Gaza European Hospital in Khan Younes, Gaza. Al-Qara had been shot earlier that day in the abdomen by the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) with a live bullet, while standing approximately 80 – 100 meters from the fence east of Khan Younes during the 68th Great Return March.[1] At the time he was shot, he was standing behind a small sandpaper covering and was not posing any threat or danger to the IOF.

Mr Al-Qara was admitted to the hospital in critical condition, with an intestinal rupture and acute haemorrhaging.[2] Despite medical attention, doctors were unable to save his life. Mr Al-Qara is the latest fatality related to the weekly Great Return March demonstrations since June 2019.[3] Since the beginning of the weekly Great Return March protests, 30 March 2018, 208 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by the IOF, including 44 children, seven persons with disabilities, four paramedics, and two journalists.[4]

According to Muhammad Issa Abu Sa’adah, 26, a photojournalist who has been covering the Great Return March protests since 30 March 2018, and who witnessed the shooting of Mr Al-Qara:

“... At approximately 6:30 in the evening, I heard live fire, then noticed two paramedics and four youths running towards a young man injured and on the ground about 50 metres away from the fence. I ran towards them and took several pictures and saw his left foot bleeding. I heard paramedics say he was shot with live fire…

About five minutes later, I saw a young man wearing a pink shirt, standing about 50 metres away in front of me towards the right, about 80-100 metres away from the border fence…I did not notice that he was doing anything. In front of him to the right, about 40 metres away, there was a young man trying to throw stones at the occupying forces… to the left of the young man who was wearing a pink shirt, there were also several children trying to come close to the border fence… I took a picture of a girl who was in the area waving a Palestinian flag, then I heard the sound of live fire and noticed sand scattering in front of the young man wearing a pink shirt. Then I saw him fall to the ground... It was clear to me that he was shot in the abdomen area, bleeding, and in difficult condition... while the injured was being transferred, the occupying forces started shooting tear gas canisters heavily towards the area, which pushed the paramedics and young men carrying him to take a slight detour in order to get to the ambulances...

At about 10:00 that night, I learned that one of the injured is called Ahmad Al-Qara, a resident of Bani Suhaila in Khan Younes, and that he is in critical condition and is being treated in the Gaza European Hospital in the city, and that he needs blood units...”[5] 

Legal Analysis

By shooting and killing Mr Al-Qara, Israel has ignored its international law obligations. Israel has obligations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), including in the Gaza Strip, as an Occupying Power under international humanitarian law, as well as general obligations under international human rights law.[6]

As the United Nations (UN) Commission of Inquiry has determined, the Great March of Return protests are civilian in nature and are not combat or a military campaign, placing policing the protests within the law enforcement paradigm.[7] Israel’s policing duties and activities are governed by provisions of international human rights law. A basic protection in human rights law, under Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is that everyone has the right to life and that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”[8] Specifically, the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials states that “[l]aw enforcement officials shall not use firearms against persons except in self-defence or defense of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury...and only when less extreme means are insufficient to achieve these objectives.”[9] Strict limitations on the use of force are also called for in the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials.[10] Israel’s shooting of Mr Al-Qara violated his right to life, by arbitrarily depriving him of his life, as he posed no threat to the safety of Israeli occupying forces when he was shot.

Al-Haq recalls, amongst other resolutions, the adoption of Human Rights Council resolution A/HRC/40/L.25 on 22 March 2019, which called upon “all States to promote compliance with international law and all High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”.[11] The killing of civilians is prohibited under international humanitarian law. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention states have a positive obligation to pursue prosecution of wilful killings as a grave breach of the Convention.[12] Wilful killings, as grave breaches of the Convention, are also a prosecutable war crime under Article 8 of the Rome Statute.[13] The killing of Mr Al-Qara, as a civilian not directly participating in hostilities and who was not posing a direct threat to the IOF,[14] constitutes a wilful killing and war crime.

The killing of Mr Al-Qara demonstrates Israel’s continued and systemic refusal to recognize and adhere to international law, resulting in the ongoing deprivation of the basic right to life of the protected Palestinian civilian population. Israel’s actions have been fostered and facilitated by the prevalent culture of impunity for serious violations of international law. The targeting and killing of unarmed civilians by the IOF are manifest violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Israel must immediately and genuinely investigate the killings and hold those responsible to account. In addition, Al-Haq calls on third party States to respect and ensure respect for the Geneva Conventions including by pursuing accountability for grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

[1] For field updates on the Great Return March, see:

[2] Al-Haq Field Report, 28 July 2019, available on file.

[3] “Israeli army kills Palestinian in weekly Gaza protest,” Al Jazeera, 27 July 2019, available at:

[4] Figures include those killed in the context of the Great Return March only. Al-Haq Monitoring and Documentation Department.

[5] Affidavit No. A322/2019, given by Muhammad Issa Abu Sa’adah, on 27 July 2019.

[6] Human Rights Council, “Report of the detailed findings of the independent international Commission of inquiry on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” (18 March 2019), UN Doc A/ HRC/40/CRP.2 at [59] – [67].

[7] Human Rights Council, “Report of the independent international Commission of inquiry on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” (25 February 2019), UN Doc A/ HRC/40/74 at [32].

[8] Article 6, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, (1966).

[9] Principle 9, UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, Havana, Cuba, 7 Sept. 1990.

[10] Article 3, UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, (1979).

[11] Human Rights Council, “Ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem” (18 March 2019), A/HRC/40/L.25

[12] Article 146 and 147, Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, (1949).

[13] Article 8, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, (1998).

[14] Human Rights Council, “Report of the detailed findings of the independent international Commission of inquiry on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” (18 March 2019), UN Doc A/ HRC/40/CRP.2 at [788].