27 International organisations condemn Israeli ‘mass murder’ of Palestinians

Palestinian youth clash with occupation forces at the Hawara checkpoint, south of Nablus city
Palestinian youth clash with occupation forces at the Hawara checkpoint, south of Nablus city

A JOINT statement by 27 international organisations has called for urgent international action to stop Israeli ‘mass murder’ of Palestinians in Gaza.

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor (Euro-Med) said at a press conference held at Shifa Medical Compound in Gaza on Tuesday that 27 different international organisations have signed a joint statement calling for a stop to the Israeli killing of Palestinian civilians.

The statement followed Israel’s recent ‘mass murder of Palestinians resulting from the Israeli army’s use of excessive force to disperse unarmed demonstrators, killing dozens and wounding over 2,000,’ said Euro-Med.

The organisations that signed the joint statement noted that for the most part, ‘protests have been peaceful at the Gaza fence, while targeted protesters did not pose a threat to soldiers’ lives that could justify their killing or the use of excessive force against them.’

They added: ‘It is true that, in some cases, protesters threw stones at the Israeli soldiers, attempted to cross the fence, or used Molotov cocktails. Also, none of them used or carried firearms. Given the large numbers of casualties, Israel’s use of lethal force is in no way justifiable. It is arbitrary and excessive.’

The organisations accused Israel of having ‘a deliberate intention to further complicate injuries of protesters, causing serious injuries that may lead to permanent disabilities.’ In most of the injuries, according to doctors’ testimonies, explosive bullets were used which expand as they pierce the body, leaving an even larger exit wound. This has left patients with no choice except to have their lower limbs amputated. ‘Soldiers seem to have been intent on causing amputations to protesters,’ they said.

The international organisation also accused Israel of using gas to disperse demonstrators that ‘contained substances that caused tremor, fainting and hysteria.’ They said doctors are concerned that it can lead to chronic lung infections, nervous system disorders or chronic spasms in the muscles and nerves.

‘The use of such types of weapons against civilians who do not pose a real threat to soldiers’ lives contradicts the rules set for the use of force to disperse demonstrations. Such excessive and disproportionate use runs contrary to the provisions of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits the use of “weapons, projectiles and substances and methods of war that are likely to cause unnecessary suffering”.’

And the statement called on the international community, especially the UN, to force the Israeli occupation to respect protesters’ right to demonstrate in a peaceful manner in the Gaza Strip, and the Israeli leadership to prevent their soldiers from using force when dealing with peaceful demonstrators.

The Israeli occupation must also conduct an effective and serious investigation regarding the excessive use of force against the demonstrators in the Gaza Strip, and the use of weapons that have caused unjustifiable pain, while holding the perpetrators to account for these crimes, and bringing them to justice.

They also noted the importance of referring these cases to the Courts of Justice of those countries party to the Geneva Conventions, under the principle of universal jurisdiction, to look into the said crimes. They also pointed to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

‘The Israeli occupation must put an immediate and unconditional end to the blockade on the Gaza Strip, and shall compensate all those who were affected by this blockade over the past years. The Israeli government must work seriously to end its long-term occupation of the Palestinian territories, allow the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes and compensate those who do not wish to return, as stipulated in UN General Assembly Resolutions’ concluded the statement.

• The Palestinian government holds Israel and the US administration responsible for the loss of lives in the Gaza Strip on Monday during protests against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem. In the weekly Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, it condemned the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, and affirmed full support for the decisions issued by the Palestinian leadership.

The Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, condemned the brutal massacre by the Israeli occupation forces against the defenceless Palestinian demonstrators at peaceful marches in the Gaza Strip, which led to the injury of 2,700 by live ammunition. It affirmed its full support for the decisions issued by the urgent meeting of the Palestinian leadership headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, namely the signing of a number of international agencies’ treaties the State of Palestine is planning to join.

The Cabinet called for the immediate signing of the ‘illegal settlement’” case file to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and called on the Security Council to hold an urgent session to address a resolution regarding the crimes committed by the Israeli occupation forces against the Palestinian people, and to provide immediate international protection.

It also called on the UN Human Rights Council to organise an urgent convention to address the sending of an international mission to investigate the crimes committed by Israeli armed forces against the Palestinians, as well as to hold a meeting of the Arab League Council at delegate level to issue binding resolutions.

The Cabinet also strongly condemned the position of Romania, Hungary, The Czech Republic and Austria for participating in the US embassy opening ceremony, which is against the European Union’s official position and policies which consider the US move a violation of international law. On the other hand, the Cabinet valued the position of the European Union’s High Representative for Security and Foreign Affairs Policy, Federica Mugherini, which stated: ‘It would not allow any European country to leave the European consensus regarding Jerusalem’, stressing the importance of the commitment of all states to United Nations resolutions and international law regarding the status of the city of Jerusalem.

The Cabinet also highly praised the decisions of the governments of South Africa, Turkey and Ireland to withdraw their ambassadors from Israel in protest against the massacres committed by Israel in the Gaza Strip. To conclude, the Cabinet called upon the international community to commit to its historical responsibility towards the Palestinian people and implement all United Nations resolutions regarding the establishment of the independent State of Palestine along the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital in addition to the refugees right to return based on UN resolution (194) and the provision of international protection.

• On Tuesday the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned ‘the appalling, deadly violence in Gaza’ resulting from the Israeli army killing over 60 Palestinians and wounding more than 2,700 others. Rupert Colville, spokesman for the Commissioner, said the already crumbling health care system in Gaza has been placed under incredible strain, and those suffering life-threatening injuries face a nightmarish scenario in the absence of adequate hospital beds and medical services.

‘The rules on the use of force under international law have been repeated many times but appear to have been ignored again and again. It seems anyone is liable to be shot dead or injured: women, children, press personnel, first responders, bystanders, and at almost any point up to 700m from the fence,’ said the spokesman. He said the Israeli army used lethal force against the Palestinian demonstrators.

‘We stress, again, that lethal force may only be used as a measure of last – not first – resort, and only when there is an immediate threat to life or serious injury. An attempt to approach, or crossing or damaging, the fence do not amount to a threat to life or serious injury and are not sufficient grounds for the use of live ammunition. This is also the case with regards to stones and Molotov cocktails being thrown from a distance at well-protected security forces located behind defensive positions.’

Colville called for ‘independent, transparent investigations in all cases of death and injury.’ Since 30 March, 112 Palestinians, including 14 children, have lost their lives at the fence and thousands have been injured. The UN High Commissioner described in a tweet on Monday the high number of killings as ‘shocking’. He said: ‘Those responsible for outrageous human rights violations must be held to account. The international community needs to ensure justice for victims.’