“Israel is carrying out a murderous assault against protesting Palestinians, with its armed forces killing and maiming demonstrators who pose no imminent threat to them,” Amnesty International said on Friday as thousands of Palestinians taking part in Great March of Return rallies in Gaza faced Israeli bullets for the fifth week.
Over those weeks, Amnesty stated, “the Israeli military has killed 35 Palestinians and injured more than 5,500 others – some with what appear to be deliberately inflicted life-changing injuries.”
“In most of the fatal cases analyzed by Amnesty International victims were shot in the upper body, including the head and the chest, some from behind,” the group stated.
“Eyewitness testimonies, video and photographic evidence suggest that many were deliberately killed or injured while posing no immediate threat to the Israeli soldiers.”
In video at the top of this page, Amnesty states that Israel is carrying out these crimes using weapons, including the American-made Remington M24 sniper rifle, which is sold in the United States “as a hunting rifle to kill deer.”
The video also highlights the case of Muhammad Khalil Obeid, a Palestinian footballer whose promising career was ended when an Israeli sniper shot him in both knees.
Amnesty also pointed to the evidence provided by doctors and medical personnel “that many of the serious injuries they have witnessed are to the lower limbs, including the knees, which are typical of war wounds that they have not observed since the 2014 Gaza conflict.”
Time for action
Amnesty is renewing its calls for “governments worldwide to impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel.”
“The time for symbolic statements of condemnation is now over. The international community must act concretely and stop the delivery of arms and military equipment to Israel,” the group stated. “A failure to do so will continue to fuel serious human rights abuses against thousands of men, women and children suffering the consequences of life under Israel’s cruel blockade.”
That blockade is so tight that even members of the US Congress are not being allowed into the territory. This week, Representative Mark Pocan publicly called on Israel to let members of Congress into Gaza so they could see how US humanitarian aid is being used.
Earlier this month, the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor warned Israeli leaders that they could face trial for violence against civilians in Gaza.
Amnesty appears to be urging the court to move on that warning.
“Unless Israel ensures effective and independent investigations resulting in criminal prosecutions of those responsible, the International Criminal Court must open a formal investigation into these killings and serious injuries as possible war crimes and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice,” Amnesty added.
Amnesty now appears to be taking a stronger position than it has in recent weeks when it urged Israel merely to avoid “excessive force” against Palestinians.
But human rights defenders have long dismissed investigations undertaken by Israel’s military as nothing more than whitewashing mechanisms that only serve to bolster impunity and deter investigation by the ICC.
Failure to prosecute
This point was emphasized by the UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Friday.
“Israel’s failure to consistently prosecute violations committed by members of its security forces, encourages them to use deadly force against their fellow unarmed human beings, even when they present no threat,” Zeid stated.
The UN human rights chief pointed out that “serious investigations only seem to take place when video evidence has been gathered independently.”
“For the many more alleged killings of unarmed civilians by Israeli security forces that take place off camera, there seems to be little or no effort to apply the rule of law,” he added.
However that is an overly generous assessment. Even in high-profile cases where there has been ample video evidence, Israel’s system has only reinforced impunity by handing down lenient sentences to soldiers who carried out cold-blooded killings.
And there have been many cases of killings or injuries captured on video which have not resulted in any serious investigation.
It is also illogical to call on Israel to investigate killings and injuries as crimes or violations within its own system, when soldiers are being directly ordered to kill and injure unarmed protesters.
While the UN human rights chief at least recognizes that Israel has consistently failed to hold killers of Palestinians accountable, the European Union has decided to continue pretending that Israel is ready, willing and able to do so.
On Thursday the EU put out a statement that uncritically “takes note of the Fact-Finding Assessment Mechanism established by the Israel Defence Forces to review its own actions.”
The EU also continues to promote Israel’s propaganda used to justify killing unarmed protesters that there have been “violent attacks against Israel under the guise of the protests.”
Not a single Israeli has been reported injured as a result of the protests in Gaza and Israel has failed to date to present evidence of such attacks.
The EU, again echoing frequent Israeli government talking points, demanded that Palestinians “avoid any incitement to violence.”
However, the EU said nothing about the actual incitement coming from Israel.
Israeli government fabrications
In an example of the government propaganda used to justify the deliberate killing of civilians including children, Israeli government spokesperson Ofir Gendelman tweeted a video he claimed showed “a little Palestinian girl that recites what Hamas terrorists told her before they sent her today as a human shield to tear down the Gaza border with Israel.”
Subtitles in the video clip claim the young woman says, “We are are not afraid of them, we want to kill them.”
However speakers of Palestinian Arabic, including this writer, were able to hear clearly that the girl said no such thing, despite how the audio sounds as if it has been doctored.
In fact, the girl says, “We are not afraid of them, We want to enter [cross the boundary] to them.”
One of the main demands of the Great March of Return is that Palestinians be allowed to exercise their internationally recognized right to return to lands from which they and their families were expelled and from which Israel excludes them solely because they are not Jews.