April 15, 2018. Today (Sunday), a group of human rights organizations including Gisha, ACRI, Yesh Din and HaMoked petitioned (Hebrew) the High Court of Justice, demanding that the court order the revocation of open-fire regulations allowing Israeli soldiers to fire live ammunition at demonstrators who are not endangering human life near Gaza’s perimeter fence. In light of the high number of fatalities during the recent demonstrations, the organizations requested that the court hold an urgent hearing on the petition, before the next round of demonstrations expected to take place this coming weekend. The request was not granted, but the court ordered the Israeli army to respond within ten days.

International law prohibits the use of lethal force against civilians unless they participate directly in acts of hostility or pose a concrete risk to life, and even then, only as a last resort and only to the extent necessary to alleviate the risk. Participation in a demonstration, even if the protest is not entirely “peaceful” and includes riots or disturbances, does not constitute an act of hostility or directly endanger life, in and of itself, which can be responded to with live fire. Despite international law, Israel’s open-fire regulations permit soldiers to fire at any demonstrator based on their proximity to the perimeter fence (on the Gaza side), even if they do not endanger the lives of others.

It is important to note that the Israeli army’s use of live ammunition in proximity to Gaza’s perimeter fence occurs routinely, not only during protests, and frequently results in death or injury. For years, Israel has enforced a “no-go zone” (commonly referred to as the “buffer zone”) along the fence separating Israel from the Gaza Strip. Residents of the Strip are generally prohibited from approaching this area, where much of Gaza’s farmland is located. Days before the current wave of protests began in March 2018, 59-year-old Palestinian farmer Mohammed Atta Abu Jama was shot to death in the “buffer zone.” Other than the reprehensible loss of life, firing live ammunition in the “no-go zone” also poses a threat to Gaza’s agriculture sector and limits economic development in the Strip.

To read Gisha’s analysis on the current situation in Gaza click here.