Twenty Palestinians, four of them children, were fatally injured by Israeli fire in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip during the month of March, or died from injuries sustained previously.
Palestinians in Gaza marked the first anniversary of the Great March of Return on 30 March. Four Palestinians were fatally injured during the anniversary protests, including two children. A fifth Palestinian was killed before protests set off that day while he was 100 meters from the boundary fence.
A total of 10 Palestinians were fatally injured while protesting along Gaza’s eastern and northern boundary with Israel during March, or died from injuries sustained during protests in previous months.
More than 200 Palestinians, including 43 children, have been killed during Great March of Return protests since their launch.
While convened in Geneva in March, the UN Human Rights Council condemned Israel’s “apparent intentional use of unlawful lethal and other excessive force” against protesters in Gaza.
A commission of inquiry formed by the human rights council has found that Israel’s use of lethal force against protesters warrants criminal investigation and prosecution and may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Meanwhile, 10 Palestinians in the West Bank were killed during the month of March.
Two Israelis killed
Among the Palestinians killed in the West Bank, Omar Amin Abu Leila, 19, was shot dead in Abwein village on 19 March during what Israel said was a firefight. Abu Leila was suspected by Israel of fatally injuring an Israeli soldier and settler two days earlier.
In multiple cases during the month, the Israeli military justified the fatal use of live fire on the grounds that Palestinians had thrown stones or fire bombs or were attempting to attack soldiers with their car.
Many if not all of these Palestinians may have been killed while they posed no actual threat to the soldiers who shot them dead.
The military made no attempt to explain the 4.5-minute gap between an alleged car ramming attack on soldiers standing next to a broken-down military vehicle on a dark road and the multiple gunshots that took the lives of Amir Mahmoud Darraj and Yousif Raed Anqawi in the central West Bank on 4 March.
On 10 March, occupation forces in the Jordan Valley shot and killed Salameh Salah Salameh Kaabneh, 22, at a checkpoint near Yafit, an Israeli settlement near Jericho. Israeli forces opened fire on the vehicle after Kaabneh allegedly did not respond to calls to stop at the checkpoint. No Israelis were injured.
A Palestinian man identified as Yasir al-Shweiki was shot dead by soldiers in the Old City of Hebron on 12 March. The military claimed he had approached soldiers with a knife; no Israelis were injured. The slain man’s father told Palestinian media that his son, a clerk for a nearby court, was distributing court notices when he was killed.
Muhammad Abd al-Fattah Shahin, 23, was shot in the chest and killed during confrontations with soldiers in the northern West Bank town of Salfit on 12 March.
Car sprayed with bullets
Israeli forces sprayed bullets at the car in which Raed Hashim Muhammad Hamdan, 21, and Zaid Imad Muhammad Nuri, 20, were traveling in Nablus in the early hours of 20 March. Israel claimed they had thrown an explosive device at soldiers.
Eyewitnesses told media that after Israeli forces fired at the car, an Israeli army bulldozer turned it over and damaged it as the screams of the two young men could be heard from inside, before they fell silent.
Stone-throwing was the justification given by the military for killing Ahmad Manasra, 23, after he tried to help a family with their broken-down car at the southern entrance to Bethlehem on 20 March. Witnesses denied Israel’s version of events.
Sajid Mizher, 17, was shot in the stomach with a live bullet while on duty as a volunteer medic during confrontations with soldiers in Dheisheh refugee camp on 27 March.
Thirty-nine Palestinians have been killed by Israeli occupation forces and settlers so far this year, or died from injuries sustained in previous years. Three Israelis were killed by Palestinians during the same period, though Palestinian factions have repudiated Israel’s claims of a nationalist motive for an Israeli woman’s killing by a Palestinian man in February.
Palestinian armed groups in Gaza launched rockets toward central Israel on two occasions during the month of March for the first time since 2014, both attributed by Israel’s military and intelligence establishment to accidental fire. Egypt and the UN scrambled to prevent a major military confrontation as Israel bombed sites across Gaza after a home north of Tel Aviv was destroyed by a rocket fired from Gaza on 25 March.
Hamas protest crackdown
Hamas security forces beat demonstrators, including senior staff of the Independent Commission for Human Rights in Gaza. Human rights defenders were among the more than 1,000 people arrested, as were at least 17 journalists.
In the Israeli-controlled H2 area of Hebron, in the West Bank, three Palestinian children between the ages of 1-4 died after their house caught fire on 5 March. “As access to the area for ambulances and fire brigades requires prior coordination from the Israeli authorities, rescue services were delayed, according to Palestinian sources,” the United Nations monitoring group OCHA stated.
During a visit to Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looked on as his American counterpart Donald Trump signed an executive order delivering on his promise to recognize Israel’s claims to sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
As recognized by international law, the Golan Heights is Syrian territory captured by Israel during the 1967 war along with the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, from which Israel eventually withdrew.
After Israel claimed to annex the Golan Heights in 1981, the UN Security Council declared the move “null and void and without international legal effect.”
Al-Marsad, a human rights group based in the Golan Heights, said that “The decision sets a dangerous standard that glorifies systematic human rights abuses, legitimizes illegal aggression and occupation, and endangers peace in the Middle East.”