Israel’s High Court turned down a petition demanding that the occupation authorities issue an official resolution banning the shooting of Palestinian protesters during the Great March of Return rallies in the blockaded Gaza Strip.
According to the Hebrew-speaking Yediot Aharonot, the High Court of Israel claimed that its adjudicators are not eligible to look into cases filed by those affected by Israeli military policies in Gaza.
After three weeks in which Israeli army snipers have killed dozens and wounded thousands of protesters inside the Gaza Strip, four prominent human rights organizations petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice on Sunday, demanding that the court order the government to revoke the rules of engagement that permit shooting demonstrators who pose no danger to human life.
The overwhelming majority of those who were killed and wounded by Israeli forces over the past three weeks were unarmed participants in the “Great Return March,” a 45-day series of festivals and protests set to culminate on Nakba Day in mid-May.
The rules of engagement that the army has applied to besieged Gaza permit soldiers to shoot live rounds at demonstrators regardless of whether they actually endanger human life, according to the petition. Moreover, the regulations allow soldiers to shoot demonstrators who get too close to the border fence, even if they are not posing a danger to anyone.
At least six Palestinian journalists were reportedly among those shot at the Great Return March in recent weeks. One of them, Yasser Murtaja, a photographer for “Ain Media” who was wearing a helmet and vest clearly marked “PRESS” when he was shot, later died of his wounds.
The four Israeli human rights organizations behind petition, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Yesh Din, Gisha, and Hamoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual, argued that there is no prohibition on holding demonstrations in Gaza, and that violence or attempts to cross the border fence should be seen as civil disturbances — not armed warfare. Therefore, the demonstrations are not subject to the laws of war and they do they justify use of live fire.
Despite international criticism and calls for an independent investigation into the killings, Israeli authorities have doubled down on the decision to open fire on unarmed protesters.
Last week, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda warned that violence against civilians — in a situation such as one prevailing in Gaza could constitute war crimes.