This Friday the “March of Return” demonstrators in the Gaza Strip will once again face off with Israel Defense Forces soldiers. But this Friday must not, for the fifth time in a row, become the last day in the lives of yet more desperate but unarmed young men who aren’t endangering anyone, or the day on which more and more young demonstrators become disabled for the rest of their lives.
Whether this happens is in the hands of the IDF and its officers. This fifth Friday in the ongoing series of demonstrations must finally bring the cessation of the IDF’s use of potentially lethal fire at unarmed demonstrators. It must end without casualties.
On Wednesday, the 40th victim of this shooting at demonstrators died of his wounds. The victim was press photographer Ahmed Abu Hussein, who was severely wounded in the stomach two weeks ago by a sniper’s bullet.
Abu Hussein was one of only four casualties, including an 11-year-old boy who lost his leg, whom Israel allowed to be sent to a hospital in Ramallah. And even those four were allowed to be transferred only after a petition to the High Court of Justice. Of the 5,511 people who have so far been wounded in the demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel border fence, some 1,700 were wounded by live bullets.
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According to doctors in Gaza, the wounds during these demonstrations have been especially severe. Thousands of wounded is a frightening statistic considering that the demonstrators whom the army is confronting are unarmed and, as a rule, nonviolent. Given the collapse of Gaza’s health system, the fact that the defense establishment, on orders from Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, isn’t letting more of the casualties receive treatment in Ramallah or Israel adds insult to injury. Abu Hussein ultimately died in an Israeli hospital, after his condition deteriorated.
The 40 people who have been killed in the demonstrations were all young, and two were children. Their deaths could have been avoided had restrictions been imposed on the IDF’s use of live fire against the protesters.
The consistent, ongoing decline in the number of casualties from week to week isn’t only due to the decline in the number of demonstrators from week to week. It also attests to relative restraint in the conduct of IDF soldiers. But this isn’t enough. Starting on Friday, the IDF must set itself a clear goal – zero Palestinian casualties as long as they aren’t endangering anyone’s life.