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Gaza Great March of Return - Body Count

There was a visible wide and organized effort to storm portions of the Israeli border defense line. This is not surprising as this is exactly what Hamas pledged to do. The IDF adjusted its approach to the use of live fire when confronting protesters on the Gaza border the state told the High Court of Justice on 01 May 2018. The statement was made at a hearing regarding a petition by a group of human-rights groups asking the court to declare that the rules of engagement used by the IDF in confronting the protest violated international law. Michael Sfard, representing the petitioner Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights, said that the IDF was justifying shooting individual Palestinians in cases when two cardinal conditions of international law for using lethal force were absent: the targeted individual poses a danger and the danger is immediate.

Critics contend the Israeli actions violated Article 6(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [ICCRP] (which the International Court of Justice confirmed applies in the Occupied Palestinian Territory). Article 6 declares that 'No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life'. But Article 6 is focused on administration of the death penalty.

A commentary prepared for the Human Rights Committee, [CCPR/C/GC/R.36/Rev.2, 02 September 2015], noted "in order not to be qualified as arbitrary, the application of lethal force in self-defense must be reasonable and necessary in view of the threat posed by the attacker; it must represent a method of last resort after non-lethal alternatives, including warnings, have been exhausted or deemed inadequate; the amount of force applied cannot exceed the amount strictly needed for responding to the threat; the force applied must be carefully directed, as far as possible, only against the attacker; and the threat responded to must be extreme, involving imminent death or serious injury."

In the UK, Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said there had been an apparent “calculated and deliberate policy to kill and maim unarmed protesters, who posed no threat to the forces on the Gaza border. ... Many of them shot in the back. Many of them shot hundreds of metres from the border, and many of them children.”

Amnesty International called the situation in Gaza “another horrific example of the Israeli military using excessive force and live ammunition in a totally deplorable way.” Amnesty International’s Philip Luther said. “This is a violation of international standards, in some instances committing what appear to be wilful killings constituting war crimes. ... “While some protestors may have engaged in some form of violence, this still does not justify the use of live ammunition. Under international law, firearms can only be used to protect against an imminent threat of death or serious injury.” A United Nations committee also called on Israel to stop using “disproportionate force” against demonstrators.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders stated "Hamas violence does not justify Israel firing on unarmed protesters."

The IDF said that rubber-coated steel pellets are not effective in preventing Gaza demonstrators from approaching or breaching the border fence. Israel's ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, insisted that the protests were organised by militant group Hamas with an aim to “breach the border, to get inside Israel and to kill Israeli citizens ... You have got people charging the border fence with wire cutters, with explosives, with molotov cocktails, with other weapons. Their goal is clear and Hamas has articulated the goal. The leader of Hamas here [Yahya] Sinwar said our goal is to breach the border, to get inside Israel and to kill Israeli citizens. He said openly we want to tear out their hearts... You had some 40,000 people yesterday involved in violent riots on our border. There were continuous attempts to storm the border and breach the border. We have to protect our people. If we allow the Hamas terrorists to enter Israel we will have dead Israelis. We must protect our border.” Among the dead, the IDF said, were all eight members of a cell of armed Hamas operatives who were killed in a gun battle as they sought to breach the fence in the northern Gaza Strip.

A Hamas official acknowledged that 50 of the 62 Palestinians reported killed during Gaza border riots 15-16 May 2018 were members of the Islamist terrorist group, bringing the total number of known members of terror groups among the fatalities up to 53. “In the last rounds of confrontations, if 62 people were martyred, 50 of them were Hamas,” said Hamas official Salah Bardawil in an interview with the Palestinian Baladna news outlet 16 May 2018. “This proves what so many have tried to ignore: Hamas is behind these riots, and the branding of the riots as ‘peaceful protests’ could not be further from the truth,” said IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus. A Gazan doctor told the Associated Press that an 8-month-old baby, who the Gaza ministry said died after inhaling Israeli tear gas, had a preexisting medical condition and that he did not believe her death was caused by tear gas.

The documentation by Al Mezan Center for Human Rights showed that on Friday, 26 October 2018, Israeli forces used live ammunition, plastic-coated bullets and tear gas, killing four protesters and wounding 297 others, including 60 children, nine women, six paramedics, and four journalists.

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights documentation showed that from the start of the Great Return March protests on 30 March 2018, by 26 October 2018 at least 222 Palestinians had been killed in the Gaza Strip. Of the total fatalities, 168 were killed at the demonstrations — including 33 children, one woman, two journalists, three paramedics, and four persons with disability. Another 11,968 persons have been injured, including 2,329 children, 500 women, 128 paramedics, and 132 journalists. Of those injured, 6,819 were hit by live fire, including 1,206 children and 140 women.

These numbers are food for thought. The weekly demonstrations typically attract about 15,000 demonstrators - roughly the number of individuals who have sustained wounds. Possibly nearly all the demonstrators have been wounded at one time or another. Or possibly there is a fresh supply of demonstrators to maintain a constant presence on the front lines. Or probably a mix of both, as most of the wounds seem to have been less than life-threatening.

Students of body counting will note the peculiar ratio between the number killed and the number wounded, a fact that seems to have escaped public attention. Historically, in conventional combat, the number of troops Wounded in Action [WIA] was about three times the number Killed in Action [KIA]. Through various methods such as improved body armor and expedited medical treatment, American forces in Iraq managed to improve the odds so that there was only 1 KIA for every 10 WIA, or there abouts. But in Gaza, in round numbers, the 200 KIA were accompanied by 7,000 WIA by live fire ammo, and another 5,000 WIA by other means. Taken at face value, this 35:1 ratio is amazing. Surely part of this results from some Palestinian over-reporting of wounds, since it is said that Hamas pays a bonus for those wounded in the demonstrations.

Surely some part of the low body count in Gaza is due the bravery of Palestinian medics, who rapidly evacuate the wounded from the battlefield. Surely another part of the low body count is due to Israeli discrimination and precision in firing at the demonstrators. The Israelis doing the shooting are routinely described as snipers, and reports normally indicate they are aiming at lower extremities [though Al Mezan’s documentation indicated a trend of snipers shooting protesters in the upper part of the bodies]. As is well known from other massacres, if the Isralis simply directed massed fire at the protesters, thousand would have died on the spot.

By May 2019, in the year since the start of the protests, nearly 300 Palestinian protesters were killed and over 17,000 were injured in clashes with Israeli security forces. The scope of the protests has noticeably decreased in April 2019 due to the fact that the parties to the conflict had managed, with the mediation of Egypt and the United Nations, to agree on easing the blockade of the Gaza Strip and other measures of social and economic support.

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Page last modified: 05-05-2019 18:05:10 ZULU