Human Rights Watch slams Israel for shooting Gaza civilians
Human Rights Watch called on Saturday Israeli army to stop shooting at Palestinian civilians in Gaza Strip.
Citing UN figures, the international human rights watchdog stated in a report that “Israeli military forces have killed four and wounded more than 60 civilians near the perimeter fence with Gaza since the beginning of 2014.”
It went on saying: “none of the (four killed civilians) posed a threat to the soldiers” noting that Palestinians living in the densely inhabited Gaza Strip use land near the fence with Israel for agriculture, collecting rubble, scrap metal, and other reusable materials, and recreation.
“Human Rights Watch investigated seven incidents between January 2 and March 1, in which Israeli forces shot civilians in the vicinity of the fence. Four were killed, including a high school student on a picnic and a woman with an intellectual disability who was lost. Five others were wounded, including two journalists and two demonstrators planting olive trees, none of whom posed a threat to the soldiers or others.
“The Israeli military has not claimed that any of the victims in the seven cases were engaged in military operations or that armed groups were in the area when the shooting occurred.”
The report quoted Middle East Director at Human Rights Watch Sarah Leah Whitson as saying: “Month after month, Israeli forces have wounded and killed unarmed Palestinians who did nothing but cross an invisible, shifting line that Israel has drawn inside Gaza’s perimeter.”
The report noted: “In situations in which military forces are playing a policing or law-enforcement role, international human rights law applies; in such circumstances, lethal force may only be used when strictly necessary to prevent an imminent threat to life.”
It pointed out that “Israeli soldiers do not face an imminent lethal threat from unarmed Palestinian civilians in areas of Gaza near the perimeter fence.”
“In violation of international humanitarian law (or the laws of war) which prohibits attacks on civilians, Israeli soldiers have repeatedly shot at civilians near the fence on the Palestinian side.
“Under the laws of war, attacks may only be directed at military objectives, such as enemy combatants. Forces must do everything feasible to verify that targets are military objectives, and if there is doubt, must cancel the attack.
“While civilians who take a direct part in hostilities are subject to attack, merely entering a prohibited area does not meet that requirement. Military personnel who willfully kill civilians are committing a war crime.”
Highlighting the economic impacts of Israeli blockade on Gaza Strip, the organization said: “The economy of the Gaza Strip has been severely harmed by Israel… With unemployment at almost 40 percent and more than 70 percent of the population receiving humanitarian assistance.
“Apart from the deaths and injuries, the practice of firing shots, including warning shots, at Gaza residents who approach the perimeter has deprived farmers of access to their agricultural lands, harming livelihoods.”
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