Use of live fire against Palestinian protesters justified by Israel’s Supreme Court
The court’s panel of three justices unanimously rejected a petition by Israeli and Palestinian rights groups to prohibit the Israeli Army from using snipers and live ammunition to quell protests in Gaza.
In a 41-page ruling published by the justice ministry Thursday night, Chief Justice Esther Hayut sided with the government position that the Gaza protesters were not in fact peaceful civilian demonstrators, but rather part of an “armed conflict” between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic political and paramilitary group that currently holds power in Gaza. Israel considers Hamas a terrorist organization.
However, the court urged the Israeli Army to continue its own internal review of its handling of recent protests on the Gaza border.
Submitted by two human rights groups (Adalah and Al Mezan) on May 17, the petition accused Israel of using “excessive force” against the protesters, arguing that the country’s “open-fire policy is illegal.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman praised the ruling on Twitter, saying that the court had vindicated the “IDF’s strong and steadfast stance against the enemy in Gaza.”
Addressing the human rights groups, Lieberman added: “It is time for you to understand that while you are trying to strengthen our enemy, the IDF is also protecting you.”
שופטי בג״צ דחו, פה אחד, את עתירותיהם של ארגוני השמאל הקקיוניים כנגד עמידתו הנחושה והעוצמתית של צה"ל אל מול האויב בעזה. הגיע הזמן שתפנימו שבזמן שאתם מנסים לחזק את אויבנו, צה״ל מגן גם עליכם. מקומן של עתירות אלו מלכתחילה לא בבג״צ וחבל שהעותרים לא שילמו הוצאות כבדות.— אביגדור ליברמן (@AvigdorLiberman) May 24, 2018
Demonstrations peaked across the Palestinian territories last week, in protest of the United States opening its new embassy in Jerusalem. The embassy’s relocation from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem coincided with the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, or ‘catastrophe,’ when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their land after Israel was created in 1948.
More than 60 Palestinians were killed and over 2,000 injured by Israeli fire during the two days of protests, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. In total, 119 protests have been killed since March 30, when the six-week Gaza ‘Great March of Return’ began.
The bloodshed was fiercely condemned by rights groups and the UN Human Right Council.
Lieberman made headlines earlier this week after announcing that Israel plans to build 2,500 new settler homes in the occupied West Bank – in violation of the 2016 UN Security Council resolution. Given the latest developments, the move is likely to further diminish chances for a peaceful settlement to the decades-long tensions between the Israelis and Palestinians.
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