Israeli violence met with global condemnation

A Palestinian protester lies on the ground after being wounded by Israeli forces east of al-Bureij in central Gaza on 15 May.

Mahmoud Khattab APA images

As funerals were held in Gaza on Tuesday, Israel’s slaughter of Palestinian protesters the previous day was met with nearly universal condemnation and growing international calls for accountability.

On Tuesday, which marked the annual Palestinian commemoration of Nakba Day, two more protesters – identified as Bilal Budeir Hussein al-Ashram, 17, and Naser Ahmad Mahmoud Ghurab, 51 – were killed during renewed but far smaller protests than those held along Gaza’s eastern perimeter on Monday.

More than 40 others were wounded by live fire and seven children, a paramedic and a journalist were among those reported injured, according to the Palestinian human rights group Al Mezan.

A photo published Tuesday shows journalist Ashraf Abu Amra, whose photographs have appeared regularly on The Electronic Intifada, receiving treatment after being injured while covering the day’s protests:

Three Palestinians were detained by Israeli forces east of Gaza City on Tuesday and taken to an unknown location, according to the group.

At the end of the day on Tuesday Gaza’s health ministry reported that 62 Palestinians had been killed and almost 3,200 injured by Israeli forces in the territory since Monday.

A day of mourning was declared in the West Bank and Gaza on Tuesday as tens of thousands participated in funeral processions and offered condolences to grieving families in Gaza.

As of Tuesday, more than 100 Palestinians, including 12 children, two journalists and a paramedic, had been killed during the Great March of Return protests held near Gaza’s eastern boundary since 30 March.

More than 12,600 Palestinians have been injured during the seven weeks of protests, most of them requiring hospitalization. One soldier has been reported injured – the only Israeli casualty during the protests.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court vowed on Tuesday to “take action warranted” over Gaza violence, a month after issuing an unprecedented warning to Israeli leaders that they may face prosecution for the killing of unarmed Palestinian protesters.

The Palestinian rights group Al-Haq applauded South Africa and Turkey after they recalled their ambassadors from Tel Aviv.

Belgium and Ireland summoned Israeli envoys in their countries following Monday’s bloodshed.

Al-Haq called on states to immediately end diplomatic relations with Israel and “remove their embassies from Tel Aviv and Israeli embassies in their territory,” in addition to applying economic sanctions and other accountability measures.

“As Israel continues to deliberately and recklessly violate international law, as in the past 70 years, with impunity, it is time for urgent international action to maintain regional peace and security,” Al-Haq stated.

Turkey and Israel expelled each other’s diplomats on Tuesday over the slayings in Gaza.

The Trump administration, which blocked the adoption of a United Nations Security Council statement calling for an independent probe into Monday’s bloodshed, continued to play the role of Israel’s lawyer at the world body.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, stated during an emergency Security Council meeting on Tuesday that “No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has.”

Haley claimed that “Hamas terrorists backed by Iran have incited attacks against Israeli security forces” as she tried to make the case that Iran’s “destabiling [sic] conduct” – rather than Israeli violence – should occupy the Security Council’s attention:

Haley walked out of the session when Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian Authority envoy, began to speak.

“How many more Palestinians have to die before you take action?” Mansour asked the Security Council.

The UN director of Human Rights Watch condemned what he called the “habitual move” by the US to shield Israel from accountability, “sending the message that Israeli forces’ calculated killings of protesters come with no cost.”

Israel has attempted to justify its use of lethal force against unarmed demonstrators by claiming that Hamas is using the protests as cover to infiltrate into Israel to capture soldiers and harm civilians.

But Palestinians insist that the protests are aimed at exercising refugees’ right to return to the lands from which their families were expelled during, before and after the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948.

Two-thirds of Gaza’s besieged and blockaded population of two million Palestinians are refugees, many of them from areas within walking distance of the Gaza-Israel boundary. Israel has long prevented Palestinian refugees from returning to their lands and homes because they are not Jewish.

Israel warned Hamas leaders on Monday night that they are liable to be targeted by the military if the protests continue.

The Israeli military published a montage of photos from the protests, stating that “Hamas can turn anything into a weapon of terror,” including “children” and “disabled protesters.”

The tweet appeared to be an effort to openly justify Israel’s practice of targeting and killing unarmed civilians including children and disabled persons.

That reasoning was rejected by the UN’s human rights office, with its spokesperson telling reporters in Geneva on Tuesday that “The mere fact of approaching a fence is not a lethal, life-threatening act, so that does not warrant being shot.”

“It is not acceptable to say that ‘this is Hamas and therefore this is OK,’” he said.

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s Middle East peace envoy, told the Security Council on Tuesday that “There is no justification for the killing. There is no excuse.”

Mladenov also said that Hamas “must not use the protests as cover to attempt to place bombs at the fence and create provocations; its operatives must not hide among the demonstrators and risk the lives of civilians.”

He said that on Monday Israel “carried out 18 airstrikes and fired shells in the direction of 26 Hamas targets in response to attacks,” UN News reported.

At least 43 Palestinian civilians were among those killed by Israeli forces in Gaza on Monday, according to Al-Haq.

Fadi Hassan Salman Abu Salmi, 30, a double amputee who was killed by a live bullet to the chest, was among those civilians slain, the rights group said.

“The patterns of killings” over seven weeks of protest in Gaza, Al-Haq stated, “are directly linked and emanate from Israel’s territorial expansion, illustrated in its encroaching annexation of Jerusalem, and accelerated colonization of the [occupied Palestinian territory], in violation of international law.”

Journalists and human rights observers described “individual snipers safely ensconced hundreds of feet, even farther, away, targeting individual protesters and executing them one at a time,” as stated by Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch.

The rights group Defense for Children International Palestine confirmed that seven Palestinian children were killed in Gaza on Monday:

The rights group has documented the killing of 10 children in Gaza at the hands of Israeli occupation forces over the past month.

Yusif Abu Jazar, 15, died by Israeli sniper fire after he was shot while attempting to cross the Gaza boundary fence on 29 April.

“A witness told [Defense for Children International Palestine] that Israeli forces instructed him to stop and remove his jacket. When Yusif removed it, a sniper opened fire on him,” the group stated.

A coalition of Palestinian and US-based human rights groups called on the State Department on Tuesday to investigate Israel’s use of lethal force against protesters in Gaza and halt assistance to military units responsible for gross human rights abuses.

“The US provided Israel with more than $3 billion in military aid in 2017, making it the largest recipient of US foreign military assistance,” the human rights groups say in their letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“Human rights organizations have documented that the Israeli military has used the US-made Remington M24 sniper rifle to fire on protesters in Gaza,” the rights groups state, adding that “There is ample credible information that these killings in Gaza by Israeli forces constitute extrajudicial killings.”

Senator Patrick Leahy, who authored the law the human rights group referenced, issued a similar call on Tuesday condemning Israel’s “deplorable” shooting of unarmed protesters.

“The State Department should promptly determine if individuals or units involved in the shootings should be prohibited from receiving US training or equipment, consistent with the Leahy Law,” the senator said.

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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.