Israeli Army Refuses to Disclose Open-fire Policy for Gaza Border Protests

In response to petition filed by human rights groups, IDF says its directives 'comply with Israeli and international law'

Palestinian demonstrators run for cover from tear gas fired by Israeli security forces during the fifth consecutive mass Gaza border demonstration, April 27, 2018.
SAID KHATIB/AFP

The Israeli army refused to disclose the rules of engagement applying to the protests at the Gaza border, in response to a petition submitted to the High Court of Justice on April 15 by four human rights organizations. In a statement, the state said the rules of engagement in the area are classified, adding that if asked by the court to present them it would do so only in closed session and without the presence of the plaintiffs. The High Court is scheduled to hear the petition Monday.

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In their petition, the organizations demand the revocation of the order permitting soldiers to fire live bullets at demonstrators at the border even if there is no clear and present danger to human life. The groups also want the court to rule that the current rules of engagement governing demonstrations are illegal. The petition was submitted by Yesh Din, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Gisha and Hamoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual.

“The formulation of the rules of engagement was approved by the Military Advocate General and by the attorney general,” the state said in its response to the petition, adding that the directives “comply with Israeli law and with international law.” Regarding the protests along the border with Israel inside the Gaza Strip that began five weeks ago, the response said they “constitute part of the armed conflict between the Hamas terror organization and Israel, with all that this implies.”

The response went on to say that Hamas is exploiting the protests to carry out terror attacks, and that the organization that rules the Gaza Strip has orchestrated “intentional and significant” confrontations with Israel’s security forces as well as attempts to damage Israeli security infrastructure.

“In recent weeks Hamas is using a new tactic of terror activity in the guise of national memorial events and popular protest,” the state said in its response. “At the same time, Hamas is waging a broad campaign of disinformation in regard to the character of the violent incidents occurring in the area of the security barrier, the army’s instructions and the means used by the army to cope with the events.”

Even before the weekly protests began at the border, on March 30, the army warned that it would use live fire against anyone who tried to damage the border fence and cross into Israel.

At least 44 Palestinian protesters have been killed by the army and nearly 2,000 have been injured, according to authorities in the Strip.

Responding April 20 to the fatal shooting of a 15-year-old boy at the border, Nickolay Mladenov, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, wrote on Twitter: “It is OUTRAGEOUS to shoot at children! How does the killing of a child in #Gaza today help #peace? It doesn’t! It fuels anger and breeds more killing. #Children must be protected from #violence, not exposed to it, not killed! This tragic incident must be investigated.”

After the first week of protests, the army said the rules of engagement in the Strip had not changed.