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After Gaza bloodshed, B’Tselem urges Israeli troops to disobey shooting orders

A Palestinian protester runs for cover during clashes with Israeli forces near the border fence, east of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip on April 4, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

An Israeli rights group has called on the regime’s troops to disobey the military’s “manifestly illegal” shoot-to-kill orders, which led to the deaths of 18 unarmed Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip last week.

In a rare step on Wednesday, B'Tselem launched a media campaign urging Israeli soldiers to disobey open-fire orders against Palestinian demonstrators who approach the Gaza-Israel border unless they pose an imminent threat to soldiers’ lives.

“As long as soldiers in the field continue to receive orders to use live fire against unarmed civilians, they are duty-bound to refuse to comply,” the group said, adding, “Yet obeying patently illegal orders is a criminal offense.”

On March 30, Gazans marched to the fence separating the enclave from Israeli-occupied lands at the start of a six-week protest, dubbed “The Great March of Return.”

The mass protest, however, turned violent when Israeli military forces used lethal force to disperse the crowd. Besides the 18 killed, some 1,500 Gazans were injured.

Israel had previously deployed military vehicles and special forces, including 100 snipers, to Gaza’s border. The regime’s forces had also been authorized to shoot at the demonstrators.

However, footage that circulated online afterwards showed that those who were shot posed no threat to Israeli troops.

Human Rights Watch reported Tuesday that it had reviewed a number of the videos, which show a demonstrator shot in the leg while praying and a man shot while throwing a rock.

Other videos reviewed, the HRW, “appear to show demonstrators shot while slowly walking toward the border empty-handed or holding only a Palestinian flag or retreating from the border.”

B’Tselem further said, “The use of live ammunition against unarmed persons who pose no danger to anyone is unlawful. It is even more blatantly unlawful in the case of soldiers firing from a great distance at demonstrators located on the other side of the fence that separates Israel from the Gaza Strip.”

It said Israel is bound by international norms for the use of live fire, adding that simply approaching the fence and even damaging it does not provide grounds for using lethal force while the forces had other options for dispersing the crowds.

The group said it would be publishing notices in major Israeli newspapers and take other steps to publicize its campaign.

The appeal by B’Tselem comes as fresh demonstrations are expected along the Israeli-Gaza border this Friday.

During an Army Radio interview on Wednesday, Israel’s Minister of Military Affairs, Avigdor Liberman, called B’Tselem’s move a “seditious campaign,” saying he had spoken to legal advisers in its ministry about taking action against the group.

Liberman had threatened on Tuesday that Israeli forces would continue targeting Palestinian protesters in Gaza with live fire despite international condemnation.

“Anyone who comes close to the fence will endanger their lives,” Liberman said during a visit to the border in which he tried to discourage participants in the “Great March of the Return” from trying to cross into Israel.

He dismissed criticism of the shoot-to-kill policy by the UN and European countries.

Palestinians say this is not a new policy but part of a larger Israeli plan to commit more massacres against peaceful demonstrators.

Arab League urges ICC to probe Gaza killings

On Wednesday, the head of the Arab League called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to investigate the deaths of Palestinians killed in Gaza since Friday.

During an official visit to the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Palestinians are demanding their rights “and they will not be forgotten or diminished.”

He said the Arab League also supports UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for an independent investigation of the killings by Israeli forces.

The Security Council held an emergency meeting over the mass killings by Israeli forces on Saturday, but failed to condemn the regime as the US hindered a final statement against its ally.

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