Israel's security forces make deadly use of...
Over the years, Israel has killed thousands of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Some were killed by security forces during routine activities to enforce the occupation, such as arrests or crowd control. Others were killed during rounds of fighting, such as those in the Gaza Strip or Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank. Thousands more have been injured by security forces’ fire, some seriously and with life-long repercussions, including physical or mental disabilities.
Most of the tasks performed by Israeli security forces in the Occupied Territories are policing activities, which include dispersing demonstrations, making arrests, enforcing travel restrictions, conducting body frisks and home searches, and more. In using firearms in the Occupied Territories, Israel claims to follow international humanitarian law. However, its open-fire policy during fighting, and particularly in massive incursions into Palestinian cities and rounds of fighting in the Gaza Strip, ignores these rules almost entirely.
According to B’Tselem, from the beginning of the Great March of Return protests on Land Day, 30 March 2018, until the end of June 2019, Israeli security forces killed 216 Palestinians, 43 of them minors, and wounded thousands, the vast majority with live ammunition. However, security forces also make deadly use of crowd control weapons, including teargas canisters, which are not designed to be fired at people directly.
At least seven of the more than 200 Palestinians killed in the Great March of Return Protests died as a result of a direct teargas canister hit. According to OCHA figures, more than 1,600 were injured this way. Firing teargas canisters directly at protestors is part of the open-fire policy Israel has been implementing along the Gaza perimeter fence for more than a year. This policy, which permits harming unarmed people who pose no danger to anyone, is immoral and unlawful.
According to the OCHA Protection of Civilians Database, as of 28 June 2019, more than 1,600 Gaza protestors arrived in hospital with injuries resulting from direct teargas canister hits, more than a third of them in the first three months of 2019.
Teargas canisters are a crowd control weapon with a firing range spanning 100 meters to several hundred meters, in the case of extended range canisters. They are designed to be non-lethal and the open-fire regulations, at least officially, as well as use instructions, forbid firing them directly at people due to the grave danger involved.
Testimonies collected by B'Tselem field researchers in the Gaza Strip over recent months indicate that security forces routinely fire teargas canisters directly at protestors, in contravention of the regulations. The testimonies also indicate teargas canisters are fired from elevated positions, relative to the perimeter fence (earth embankments, or the roofs of military jeeps), or through gaps in the fence itself.
Firing teargas canisters directly at protestors is not a stand-alone practice, but part of the open-fire policy Israel has been pursuing along the Gaza border for more than a year. This policy, which has so far claimed the lives of more than 200 protestors and injured thousands, is patently unlawful and immoral. Using lethal fire, whether live or otherwise, against protestors the vast majority of whom are unarmed and pose no danger to the lives of armored security forces on the other side of the fence, in the same way for more than a year, despite its well-documented horrific results is yet another expression of Israel’s disregard for the lives and bodily integrity of Palestinians.