Human rights organizations petition the HCJ: Revoke open-fire regulations permitting live fire on demonstrators not endangering human life

The petition alleges that opening fire on demonstrators at the Gaza border is illegal and that implementation leads to extensive harm to Palestinian civilian lives

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Yesh Din, Gisha and HaMoked petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) today, demanding that the court order the revocation of open-fire regulations allowing soldiers to fire live ammunition at demonstrators who are not endangering human life on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. In light of the high number of fatalities during the demonstrations, the organizations are demanding that the court hold an urgent hearing on the petition, prior to the demonstrations expected to take place this coming weekend.

The petition, filed by attorneys Michael Sfard of Yesh Din and Dan Yakir and Roni Peli of ACRI, argues that, based on information available to the petitioners, the open-fire regulations relating to Gaza allow soldiers to fire live ammunition at demonstrators who are classified as “primary agitators,” even when they do not pose a genuine immediate threat to human life. In addition, the open-fire regulations permit soldiers to fire at any demonstrators due to their proximity to the border fence (from the Gaza side), even if they do not endanger human life.

As a result of these orders, since the demonstrations commenced on the Gaza border, some 30 demonstrators have been killed by sniper fire and over 1,200 have been injured by direct live fire. “This is an inconceivable amount of civilians killed without requiring the provision of conclusive proof that they pose genuine and immediate danger to the lives of Israeli civilians or of Israeli forces, prior to harming them,” the petition posits.

The petitioners’ claim asserts that there is no prohibition against holding demonstrations in Gaza, and if during the demonstrations there are incidents of violence or attempts to cross the fence, these incidents constitute civil disturbances. Therefore, in accordance with the law, shooting is only permissible when immediate danger is posed to human life. The petition also states that even if the area is considered a combat zone due to a confrontation between Israel and Hamas, the demonstrations themselves are not part of the combat and are thus not subject to the laws of war. It was further argued that in view of the State’s claim that Israel has not been an occupier in Gaza following the disengagement, the army has no legal authority to declare territory in the Gaza Strip as a closed area and certainly does not have the authority to fire at those who access this area solely on the basis of having entered.

The petition quotes the army’s code of ethics, which states that soldiers will not use weapons to harm noncombatants: “We regret that we are obliged to submit a petition that states what should be taken for granted: no one should be injured or killed unless they directly endanger the lives of others…This petition addresses real human lives, and has been submitted with no other choice, following the army’s conduct and when threats made by the political echelon, the defense minister, and military commanders to severely harm civilians, were realized.”

The petitioners clarify that, “The international principles regulating the use of weapons state that lethal force shall be used solely for defending lives in mortal danger, and not for the defense of any other such value. Indeed, solely the defense of life can justify risking life.”

To view the petition (Hebrew) click here.                                                      

For more details and to schedule interviews: Gilad Grossman, Yesh Din spokesperson: 0508789821; Shay Davidovich, Association for Civil RIghts in Israel spokesperson: 0542259805