Mon, 25 Mar 2019

Israeli military probing killing of eleven Palestinian protesters

By Jay Jackson, Louisiana State News
15 Mar 2019, 07:13 GMT+10

TEL AVIV, Israel - The Israeli military's legal division has launched five criminal investigations into the deaths of 11 Palestinian protesters.

The probes are part of a wider review which has considered the circumstances of the deaths of 250 Palestinians, killed along the Gaza border, mostly on Fridays when organised demonstrations have taken place.

The process has been established to review whether the killings have criminal implications. It is understood the eleven deaths now being investigated have come from that process.

According to a report in The Jerusalem Post, the first investigation concerns the death of Abad Al Nabi and three other Palestinians on 30 March 2018 - the first day of the "Great March of Return" protests almost a year ago.

The second is an investigation into the deaths of three Palestinians east of Jabalia on 20 April.

The third is an investigation to clarify what led to the deaths of two Palestinians east of the city of Al Bureij on 15 May - which was also the period when there was a massive spike in the volume of protesters, both violent and non-violent.

Fourth is the investigation into circumstances surrounding the death of paramedic Razan Alnajar on 1 June.

Finally, the fifth and last probe is to clarify what led to the death of Otman Halas on 13 July.

The information the Post report identified came to light after the UN Human Rights Council's initial report in early March this year which accused Israel of war crimes.

The UNHRC report supported the narrative that the vast majority of Palestinians confronting the Israeli army have been peaceful protesters, which would make the soldiers' use of deadly force a war crime.

The Israeli army has said that the protests have been a mix of violent and non-violent protesters, with most of the protests organized by Hamas and a large volume of the Palestinians killed being Hamas operatives.

The army has also taken issue with some of those killed as to whether they are protesters or members of Hamas. In some, if not all, cases they could of course be both.

The human rights council in any event has nominated 29 of those killed as Hamas or other group members, whereas the Israeli army and the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center put the number at between 60 and 80, as being affiliated with Hamas or other militant groups.

In relation to journalists killed at the protest marches, the army and the Meir Amit say some Palestinians, who the UNHRC identifies as journalists or having other special protected statuses, are donning two hats - both working for Hamas and doing other actual legitimate work as a cover.

There is also disagreement between the mililtary and the council about the rules of engagement.

The UNHRC has said the Israeli army is shooting to kill when there is no immediate danger to its soldiers, based on a lax interpretation of potential danger.

The army has said that many Palestinians have been killed when its forces were aiming not to use lethal force, but instead aiming for their legs in order to prevent them from breaching the border wall and potentially terrorizing Jewish villages that are very close by.

Furthermore, the military has said that some Palestinians were mistakenly killed when bullets ricocheted unintentionally or hit a violent Palestinian, but continued afterward to unintentionally hit a non-violent protester, said The Jerusalem Post report.

There are many other aspects of the UN agency's report that are being disputed by the military.

The UNHRC has referred some aspects of its findings to the International Criminal Court Prosecution, which says it has been monitoring the demonstrations.

The Palestinian protests at the Gaza border began a year ago. The protesters have been demanding the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in historical Palestine, from which they say they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.

They also demand an end to Israels ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclaves economy and deprived its two million inhabitants, of which more than half according to the UN are children, of many basic needs.

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