Israeli army to clear itself of wrongdoing in Gaza slayings

Medics attempt to save the life of Yasir Abu al-Naja, 11, the youngest fatality during the Great March of Return. The boy was shot in the head during a protest on 29 June.

Ashraf Amra APA images

Israel will once again clear itself of wrongdoing over the killing of more than 150 Palestinians during the Great March of Return protests in Gaza.

Palestinian civilians were shot as a result of “operational mishaps,” rather than intentionally targeted, an internal military probe is reportedly set to conclude, contrary to the findings of human rights groups.

The internal investigation “is expected to find that none of the incidents involved violations of open-fire orders and therefore there are no grounds for referring any of the cases to the Military Police for further investigation,” according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Human rights groups characterize the Israeli military’s investigations of its violations against Palestinians as a whitewashing mechanism intended to ward off attention from bodies such as the International Criminal Court.

There is no reason to believe that this probe will prove otherwise.

The internal investigation supposedly finds that the deaths of “innocent” protesters were caused by ricocheted bullets or as a result of demonstrators walking into the paths of already fired live ammunition.

The deaths of Palestinians who Israel claims opened fire at soldiers or threw explosives resulted from troops opening fire “due to operational needs,” according to the probe.

Haaretz’s reporting suggests that the deaths of some unarmed protesters may have been dismissed by the internal investigation because Israel’s intelligence apparatus identified the individuals as affiliated with Hamas’ military wing.

Israel has consistently sought to portray the protests as provocations instigated by Hamas. Defense minister Avigdor Lieberman has called all of those killed during the demonstrations “terrorists.”

Human rights groups say that the political affiliation of protesters killed by soldiers is irrelevant to the legality of Israel’s actions.

In a report calling for sanctions against Israeli leaders who have ordered the killings of civilians, Human Rights Watch states:

“Hamas’ encouragement of and support for the protests and the participation of Hamas members in the protests do not justify the use of live ammunition against protesters who posed no threat to life.”

UN committee of inquiry

The United Nations Human Rights Council announced this week the formation of a committee of inquiry into Israeli military assaults on the Great March of Return protests.

Former war crimes prosecutor and US Department of Defense official David Crane will head the panel of three jurists.

Israel declared that it would refuse to cooperate with the investigation after the UN body voted in favor of its establishment. The vote was held during a special session on 18 May after more than 60 protesters were fatally wounded four days earlier.

For years Israel has prevented human rights investigators from entering Gaza under the guise of security considerations in an effort to block them from undertaking their work.

Israel is currently waging a court battle to deport Omar Shakir, the head of Human Rights Watch’s office in Palestine, as part of a greater effort to muzzle witnesses of its crimes.

Human Rights Watch has described Israel’s open-fire policy towards Gaza protesters as “calculated” and Amnesty International has termed it a “murderous assault.”

The use of live fire against unarmed demonstrators has also attracted the scrutiny of the International Criminal Court and Israeli leaders have received an unprecedented warning from the chief prosecutor.

“Point of no return”

Israel continues to make life miserable for ordinary Palestinians in Gaza for the stated purpose of turning the population against Hamas, which administers the internal affairs of the occupied territory.

COGAT, the bureaucratic arm of Israel’s military occupation, announced the resumption of entry of fuel and gas into Gaza on Tuesday.

“The return of the crossing to full operation is contingent upon a complete cessation of terror activity along the security fence,” COGAT stated, referring to the Gaza-Israel boundary.

Israel killed three Palestinian fighters in Gaza on Wednesday, despite a ceasefire reportedly reached after a massive bombing campaign last Friday.

On Tuesday, UN Middle East peace process coordinator Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council that over the past two weeks, “the situation [in Gaza] quickly spiraled out of control, nearly to a point of no return.”

Mladenov separately warned this week that Gaza “is on the verge of a total economic and social collapse, with half of the population jobless and basic services severely overstretched.”

He added that “There is no point in asking [international] donors to continue funding initiatives without a political horizon for the future. This cannot be another futile exercise in conflict management and recurring humanitarian support.”

He stated that his office is “focused on restoring unity between Gaza and the West Bank under one democratic government and under one legal system where all weapons are under the control of one legitimate national authority.”

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Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is the managing editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.