At least 28 Palestinians have lost limbs to Israeli snipers firing on participants in the Great March of Return rallies near Gaza’s boundary with Israel, according to Tareq Zaqoot, a field researcher with the human rights group Al-Haq.
Zaqoot, who is in Gaza, and his colleague Rania Muhareb in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, spoke to The Real News about how they are documenting Israel’s crimes in order to seek justice for the victims.
Muhareb revealed that Al-Haq, along with the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and Al Mezan, have already “made a submission to the International Criminal Court indicating the names of the victims and the killings that have been perpetrated by the Israeli occupying forces since 30 March.”
“We’ve not only indicated the names of those killed, we’ve also indicated an intention to kill, and to shoot to kill Palestinian protesters, which may constitute a war crime of willful killing,” Muhareb added.
Watch the video of their interview above.
Muhareb cites as an example of such evidence the recent interview translated by The Electronic Intifada in which Israeli general Zvika Fogel explains the careful process by which snipers receive authorization to shoot at the “small body” of a child.
These human rights groups have previously handed over dossiers of evidence to the ICC documenting crimes against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and during Israel’s previous assaults on Gaza.
Earlier this month, the ICC’s chief prosecutor issued an unprecedented public warning that Israeli leaders could face trial for their violence against unarmed Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
In the last five weeks, Israeli occupation forces have killed at least 39 Palestinians, including five children and two journalists, during the protests along the boundary.
The protesters are demanding an end to Israel’s siege of Gaza and the right of return for Palestinian refugees expelled and excluded from lands now in Israel because they are not Jewish.
On Sunday, three more Palestinians were reported killed by occupation forces following incidents in which the Israeli military claims Palestinians tried to breach the Gaza boundary fence.
Veneer of legality
On Monday, Israel’s high court held a hearing on petitions by several human rights groups demanding the revocation of the army’s open-fire regulations that have led to the staggering toll of deaths and injuries in Gaza.
The Israeli military’s “open-fire policy against protesters in Gaza is patently illegal,” Suhad Bishara, an attorney for one of the groups, Adalah, stated. “This policy perceives the [Palestinian] human body as an expendable, worthless object.”
The human rights group B’Tselem has urged soldiers to defy such illegal shoot-to-kill-and-maim orders.
In advance of the hearing, the Israeli military refused to publish the open-fire orders, asserting that they are classified.
Israel has tried to present the mass protests in Gaza as a Hamas-orchestrated plot to conceal “terrorist” activities.
Israel has not been able to show any evidence of armed activities during the protests and its spokespersons have resorted to fabrications – such as falsely claiming that a video shared online showed a young girl in Gaza saying of Israelis, “we want to kill them.”
In the hearing Monday, Israel’s state attorneys continued to press this narrative, arguing that “classified intelligence” showed that the protests are “part of Hamas’s armed hostilities against Israel.”
The Israeli court adjourned without giving a decision, however historically its role has been to give a veneer of legality to Israel’s systematic violations of Palestinian human rights and to help whitewash Israel internationally as a state that respects the rule of law despite decades of unchecked impunity and lawless conduct.
Against the evidence
Over the weekend, the newspaper Haaretz cited an unnamed Israeli army officer’s claim that “most of the Israeli army’s killings of Palestinians during the Gaza border protests have resulted from snipers aiming at demonstrators’ legs, with the killings an unintentional outcome after a protester bent down, a sniper missed, a bullet ricocheted or a similar phenomenon.”
According to the officer, Haaretz stated, “open-fire directives on the border only let snipers shoot at the legs of people approaching the border, and that a person’s chest may be targeted only amid the other side’s apparent intent to use weapons and threaten Israelis’ lives.”
But this flies in the face of evidence collected by human rights investigators, and the claim may be an indication that some Israeli officers are worried about the international consequences of the policy of premeditated and calculated killing and maiming.
Amnesty International stated last week that in most of the fatal cases it had examined, “victims were shot in the upper body, including the head and the chest, some from behind.”
“Eyewitness testimonies, video and photographic evidence suggest that many were deliberately killed or injured while posing no immediate threat to the Israeli soldiers,” Amnesty added.
Similarly, Adalah has stated that, “94 percent of the fatally wounded were shot in the upper body (head, neck, face, chest, stomach, and back).”
More than 5,500 Palestinians have been injured, including almost 2,000 with live ammunition.
Not one Israeli has been reported injured as a result of the protests in Gaza.