Israeli Anti-occupation Group Urges Soldiers: Refuse Orders to Fire at Unarmed Palestinians

B'Tselem slams Israeli army's live-fire policy at Gaza border protests

A Palestinian protester runs away from the border between Israel and Gaza, April 4, 2018.
SAID KHATIB/AFP

The Israeli anti-occupation and human rights group B'Tselem called for Israeli troops Wednesday to refuse orders to shoot unarmed Palestinian protesters near the Gaza border fence, following the killing of several demonstrators over the past week.

"The military prepared for these demonstrations, yet instead of attempting to minimize the number of casualties, officials made it clear in advance that soldiers would fire live ammunition on protesters who are hundreds of meters away from the fence," read a statement by B'Tselem.  

"Compliance with unlawful orders is a criminal offense," the organization said. "Therefore, if soldiers on the ground receive orders to fire live ammunition at unarmed civilians, they are duty-bound to refuse to obey them."

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On Tuesday, a 25-year-old Palestinian was shot and killed in the central Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, bringing the number of people killed in demonstrations near the fence to 17. The ministry's figure does not include the two Palestinians killed during a shootout on the border with Israeli soldiers. Israel is currently holding their bodies.

The deaths of Palestinian protesters have evoked criticism from Israeli officials, the Palestinian Authority and international organizations. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on Saturday for the launching of a transparent investigation into the death of Palestinians in protests.

Preparations are now underway for renewed protests near the border fence this weekend.

The various Palestinian factions are once again planning to enlist tens of thousands of people of all ages to come to the tent camp near the fence, as they did last weekend. According to a statement by protest organizers, clear directives were given to all participants to maintain the principle of a nonviolent march as part of a popular uprising against the Israeli occupation and the blockade of Gaza.