A video of soldiers filming themselves shooting a Palestinian protester in Gaza and then cheering emerged one day after the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court warned Israeli leaders that they may face trial over the killings of unarmed demonstrators.
The undated video was reported on by Israel’s Channel 10 after it was shared on social media on Monday.
In the video, Palestinian demonstrators are apparently seen through a rifle scope or binoculars while Israeli soldiers discuss shooting a protester who is standing still near the Gaza-Israel boundary fence:
After the soldiers shoot, the targeted Palestinian falls to the ground and the soldiers begin to cheer and celebrate how they had recorded it on video. A group of protesters comes to the aid of their injured comrade.
“Sons of whores,” one of the soldiers is heard saying.
At this point it is not known what kind of injuries were sustained by the targeted Palestinian.
The Israeli military has claimed that the video was filmed months ago. But while the date of the incident is not yet known, it is a candid example of the lax open fire regulations under which Israeli soldiers are operating.
Nearly 30 unarmed Palestinians have been killed during protests along Gaza’s boundary since 30 March.
Human Rights Watch stated that the lethal crackdown on the Great March of Return protests launched on 30 March, when Palestinians mark Land Day, was “planned at the highest levels of the Israeli government:”
Rallies are planned to continue through to Nakba Day, the 15 May commemoration of the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
Almost 500 Palestinians were injured by live fire during last Friday’s protests alone.
“All of the peaceful demonstrators who were shot and killed by [Israeli occupation forces] were shot in their upper body parts, such as their heads, necks, chests and stomachs, which illustrates intent and a shoot-to-kill policy,” the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq stated on Monday.
“The majority of gunshot wounds have been to lower limbs, causing severe orthopedic injury (shattered bones) and vascular injuries,” the charity Medical Aid for Palestinians stated on Saturday.
Gaza’s health ministry has also reported life-threatening injuries due to “less lethal” weaponry, such as a patient with a serious head and brain injury “appearing to result from the use of a ‘bean bag’ round which had become embedded in his skull,” according to the medical charity.
Gaza’s beleaguered healthcare sector, which the World Health Organization warned in February was on “the brink of collapse” after 11 years of Israeli blockade, has been unable to cope with the nearly 2,000 patients injured during protests.
Hospitals in Gaza declared a state of emergency due to the high number of casualties during the protests and a severe shortage of supplies.
Medical Aid for Palestinians reported on Monday that there is less than one month’s supply for half of all essential medicines in Gaza:
Israel prevents patients from leaving Gaza
Israel has also prevented two seriously wounded Palestinian youths, one of them a child under the age of 18, from traveling to the occupied West Bank to receive urgent medical care.
Yusif Karnaz, 20, and Muhammad al-Ajouri, 17, are in critical condition at Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital, according to the rights groups Adalah and Al Mezan, which say the two are “in immediate danger of losing their legs as a result of their gunshot wounds” sustained on 30 March.
COGAT, the bureaucratic arm of Israel’s military occupation, has refused the patients’ requests to exit Gaza to receive specialized treatment unavailable in the territory.
On Saturday, more than 70 international nongovernmental organizations operating in the West Bank and Gaza Strip condemned Israel’s “unlawful killing of civilians.”
The network of groups stated: “The targeting of nonviolent protesters is a violation of Palestinians’ right to life, health and freedom of assembly.”
On Monday the Committee to Protect Journalists condemned comments made by Israel’s defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, following the death of Yaser Murtaja, shot while covering the protests in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on Friday.
Murtaja was shot in the stomach while “wearing a bulletproof vest and helmet that were both clearly marked with the words ‘PRESS’ when he was hit,” the Committee to Protect Journalists stated.
During a Passover celebration on Saturday, Lieberman had stated in reference to Murtaja that “anyone who operates drones over Israeli soldiers needs to understand he’s putting himself at risk.”
He added that “we’ve seen dozens of cases where Hamas terrorists used ambulances, dressed up as Red Crescent medical personnel, dressed up as journalists. We won’t take any chances. I think it’s clear to everyone that the [Israeli Defense Forces] is the most moral army in the world.”
Last month, it was Israeli military personnel disguised as journalists who carried out an arrest raid at Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank, shooting and injuring two Palestinian students and prompting condemnation from the Israeli journalists union.
An Israeli military probe found no evidence that Murtaja or any other Palestinian was operating a drone during last Friday’s demonstrations.
The military has denied that it targets journalists and said it would investigate Murtaja’s killing.
“Israeli authorities must thoroughly investigate the killing of Yaser Murtaja, rather than sustain their record of making empty pledges to probe the killing of journalists during conflict and other dangerous assignments,” Sherif Mansour, Middle East and North Africa program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, stated in a press release on Monday.
Five other journalists were wounded by live fire and shrapnel while covering the protests on Friday.
The Gaza-based rights group Al Mezan, which says it is cooperating with the International Criminal Court, said regarding Murtaja’s slaying that “the Israeli forces’ lethal and injurious targeting of protected civilians corresponds with the crime of wilful killing, a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
The group added that it “documents whether a crime is committed within the context of a widespread and systematic attack, in the case that it may also amount to a crime against humanity.”
On Sunday defense minister Lieberman called for a criminal probe into the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, which warned soldiers ahead of Friday’s protest that they would be committing crimes if they obeyed orders to shoot unarmed civilians.
“I take a serious view of this attempt to sow fear and division among IDF fighters and commanders at a time when the IDF is protecting Israel’s southern border from Hamas sabotage and provocations,” Lieberman stated.
B’Tselem termed Lieberman’s call on the attorney general to investigate the group “unwarranted and baseless,” and reiterated its “appeal to Israeli soldiers to refuse to abide by patently unlawful orders to use lethal force against unarmed protesters in Gaza”:
Lawmakers with Lieberman’s right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party are meanwhile gathering signatures in support of a petition to impeach Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian member of Israel’s parliament, after she voiced her support of the Gaza protests.
“We need to go on popular marches to remind the world of the siege [of Gaza],” Zoabi said, according to The Jerusalem Post.
“We need millions of Palestinians to march on Jerusalem. That is the aspiration. But we can’t do it, because the Israelis would kill them.”
Israel has come under mounting condemnations of its use of lethal force against unarmed protesters, with Russia calling it “indiscriminate and unacceptable” on Monday, hours after Moscow blamed Israel for an attack on a Syrian air base.
UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn – who has been reluctant to confront an effort by pro-Israel groups to smear Palestine rights supporters in his left-wing base as anti-Semites – called for a review of arms sales to Israel over Gaza protest deaths.
“The killing and wounding of yet more unarmed Palestinian protesters yesterday by Israeli forces in Gaza is an outrage,” Corbyn stated on Facebook on Saturday.
“The majority of the people of the Gaza Strip are stateless refugees, subject to a decade long blockade and the denial of basic human and political rights.”
He urged the UK government to support the UN secretary-general’s call for an independent international probe “and review the sale of arms that could be used in violation of international law.”
Israel’s stalwart apologists in the United States government – which blocked a United Nations Security Council statement condemning the Gaza protest killings for the second consecutive week – are also coming under pressure to speak out.
Activists read out the names of slain Palestinians and recited mourning prayer for them before forming a human chain to block entrance to the building.
IfNotNow activists also protested outside the Israeli consulate in Toronto on Monday:
- Great March of Return
- Medical Aid for Palestinians
- Gaza health care system
- Yusif Karnaz
- Muhammad al-Ajouri
- Avigdor Lieberman
- Committee to Protect Journalists
- Yaser Murtaja
- Sherif Mansour
- Al Mezan Center for Human Rights
- Yisrael Beiteinu
- Haneen Zoabi
- Jeremy Corbyn
- Charles Schumer