Israel to Top Court: Gaza Protests Are State of War, Human Rights Law Doesn't Apply

In response to human rights groups, the government says the army's rules of engagement comply with Israeli and international law

Israeli troops fire tear gas canisters at Palestinian demonstrators during protests on the Israel-Gaza border, April 27, 2018.
\ IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS

The protests by Palestinians on the Gaza border fall into the category of a state of war and thus human rights law does not apply to the rules of engagement, the state said in its response to a High Court petition filed by human rights groups.

According to the response, the Israeli forces’ rules of engagement comply with both Israeli and international law.

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“The state opposes the applying of human rights law during an armed conflict,” the state wrote, adding that the Red Cross had acknowledged that such law indeed did not have to be applied during such a state of affairs.

In their so-called March of Return, Gazans have been protesting each Friday at the Gaza border fence. In the demonstrations, the Israeli army has killed 45 protesters and wounded thousands; the army says it is trying to stop the fence from being breached.   

The state said the demonstrations were part of hostile acts by Hamas against Israel, though Israel did not necessarily see participation in violence at the border fence or the approaching of the fence as direct participation in a hostile act. Each case should be examined individually, it said.

The State Prosecutor’s Office distinguishes between protesters demonstrating and protesters trying to break into Israel to attack soldiers and civilians.

The state’s response relied on a 2015 High Court ruling on a petition by a demonstrator on the Lebanese border who was shot by the Israeli army. According to the ruling, the breaking-up of a violent, life-threatening protest allows for the use of potentially deadly force.