Mohammad Obeid, a 24-year-old footballer, was amongst the first to have a bullet tear through his legs when he joined the first day of the protests at the Gaza fence on March 30, 2018. He was shot while he was walking alone near the fence. His injuries ended his career.
That same day, 19-year-old Yousef Kronz’s right leg had to be amputated when Israeli forces pumped. Just hours later, Bader Sabagh, also 19, was killed when he was shot in the head as he stood smoking a cigarette 300 m from the separation fence.
These are just a few of the stories from the first day of the Gaza protests, a campaign which lasted months.
The figures are telling. Of 6,106 protesters shot near the fence that divides the Gaza Strip from Israel in 2018, 940 were children and 159 were women.
Among the 189 people killed during the protests, 183 were shot with live ammunition, including 35 children, three health workers and two journalists. More than 4,900 were hit in the legs.
Based on these numbers, published in a report by the independent Commission of Inquiry set up the the UN’s human rights council last year, the UN has accused Israeli soldiers of intentionally firing on civilians near the Gaza border fence and said that their actions may amount to war crimes.
“Victims who were hundreds of metres away from the Israeli forces and visibly engaged in civilian activities were shot, as shown by eyewitness accounts, video footage and medical records,” the commission states.
The commission found that only around 29 of those killed at the demonstration sites were members of Palestinian organised armed groups.
The panel said in a statement that it had found “reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot at journalists, health workers, children and persons with disabilities, knowing they were clearly recognisable as such”.
The report was based on 325 interviews and meetings with victims, witnesses, government officials and members of civil society from all sides, and more than 8,000 documents.
“The Commission has reasonable grounds to believe that during the Great March of Return, Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, and must be immediately investigated by Israel,” said the chair of the commission, Santiago Canton of Argentina while presenting the findings on February 28 in Geneva.
|Total||Women||Children||Body part targeted||Presse||Health
|Torso||Upper limb||Lower limb|
|Fatalities by live ammunition||183||1||35||70||101||0||12||2||3|
|Injuries by live ammunition||6106||159||940||175||401||493||4903||39||39|
|Injuries by bullet fragmentation/shrapnel||1576||59||345||–||–||–||–||5||34|
|Injuries by rubber-coated metal bullet||438||36||124||–||–||–||–||4||34|
|Injuries by direct tear-gas canister hit||1084||60||233||–||–||–||–||–||85|
|Injuries by stones, explosives||4||0||0||–||–||–||–||–||–|
Four Israeli soldiers were injured at the demonstrations. One Israeli soldier was killed on a protest day but outside the protest sites, the commission said.
A fuller report is to be presented to the human rights council in Geneva on March 18.
“The findings and demands to open an immediate investigation by Israel, the occupying power, is a step in the right direction, yet is not enough for establishing comprehensive accountability,” said Ahmad Shami, a spokesman for the Palestinian prime minister. “The international community must take its responsibility and provide international protection for the Palestinian citizens in every inch of Occupied Palestine.”
Israel has already dismissed the report as “hostile, mendacious and slanted”.
On Israel’s responsibilities, the report states:
Israel has an obligation to investigate alleged violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian by its security forces and, where appropriate, to prosecute those deemed responsible. Victims of human rights violations are entitled to remedies, including equal and effective access to justice and adequate, effective and prompt reparation, including compensation, and guarantees of non-repetition.