From Smirking Chimp
On March 30, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers shot 773 unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza, killing 17 and wounding 1,400. Twenty remain in critical condition. The protesters were marching to demand the internationally mandated right of return of refugees to their cities and villages in what now constitutes Israel.
The Israeli leaders who ordered the massacre were in clear violation of international law. They should be prosecuted for war crimes.
Premeditated Use of Deadly Force Against Peaceful Protesters
The use of deadly force against the peaceful protesters was premeditated. The IDF deployed 100 snipers to the border fence between Gaza and Israel, where 30,000 to 40,000 Palestinians had gathered for the Great March of Return. In a damning tweet, later deleted, the IDF wrote, "Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed."
Jihad al-Juaidi, director of the ICU at the al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, told Al Jazeera that all of the injured people who came to the hospital were shot in the head, pelvic joints or knee joints. "This shows that Israeli forces were shooting-to-kill, or to cause disabilities," al-Juaidi stated.
B'Tselem, a Jerusalem-based human rights organization, characterized the military orders as "shoot-to-kill unarmed Palestinians taking part in these demonstrations."
"Israeli soldiers were not merely using excessive force, but were apparently acting on orders that all but ensured a bloody military response to the Palestinian demonstrations," Eric Goldstein, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's (HRW) Middle East and Africa division, stated.
Senior IDF officers told Haaretz before the protest that a large number of casualties was "a price we would be willing to pay to prevent a breach" of the fence at the border.
Israeli leaders fostered the false narrative that Hamas was sponsoring the protest. Jason Greenblatt, US envoy to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, followed suit, tweeting, "Hamas is encouraging a hostile march on the Israel-Gaza border" and accused Hamas of "inciting violence against Israel."
But the demonstration was actually organized by several Palestinian civil society organizations. "No Palestinian faction, organization or group can claim this march as its own. Hamas was simply riding the wave," Jamil Khader wrote on Mondoweiss. Palestinian flags, not factional ones, were visible.
Conflating civilians with terrorists and framing the planned response as protection against a security risk, Israeli authorities referred to Gaza as a "combat zone."
Lethal Force Can Only Be Used if Imminent Threat to Life
It is illegal to shoot unarmed civilians under international humanitarian law. Some protesters threw rocks and burned tires near the border fence. But HRW found "no evidence of any protester using firearms or any IDF claim of threatened firearm use at the demonstrations." No Israeli soldiers were killed and "the army did not report any injuries to soldiers."
"Even if a Palestinian was throwing a stone, the chances that under these conditions such an act could cause an imminent threat to life -- the only situation that would justify the use of lethal force under international law -- are infinitesimal," Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, wrote on HuffPost. "Indeed, even if Palestinians were trying to climb the fence, that would not give Israel the right to use lethal force."