On Thursday, Israel’s Supreme Court unanimously rejected two bids brought forward by human rights groups, which demanded that the Israeli army cease using snipers and live ammunition against Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip. The Supreme Court, made up of three justices, sided with the Israeli military’s argument that Palestinian protesters pose a real threat to Israel’s soldiers and citizens.
One of the groups who filed the initial petitions is Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel – and the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights. In a statement released after the verdict was announced, the group stated that the court has given Israel “a green light to its continued use of snipers and live fire against Palestinian protesters… The Israeli Supreme Court completely ignored the broad factual basis presented to it by the petitioners, which includes multiple testimonies of wounded and reports of international organizations involved in documenting the killing and wounding of unarmed protesters in Gaza.”
These petitions have been filed in the wake of months of continuous protests by Palestinians in the Gaza strip beginning at the end of March. Since the start of the protests, Israeli forces have killed at least 113 Palestinians, a statistic which includes women and children, as well as wounding more than 12 000 people. According to Al-Jazeera, at least 3 569 Palestinians have been victims of live ammunition, including doctors, paramedics, journalists, women, children, and the elderly.
International condemnation of Israel’s use of force in response to the protests has been swift and expansive, with UN rights experts labeling Israel’s actions a “disproportionate use of force.” Alistair Burt, a British government minister in charge of Middle Eastern Affairs, said that his country “has been clear in calling for, urgently, a need to establish the facts of what happened, including why such a volume of live fire was used.” French President Emmanuel Macron has also stressed the importance of the right to peaceful demonstrations with Israeli President Netanyahu, as reported by a Palace source in France.
In what is surely a massive setback to productive peace talks, the United States blocked a UN resolution that condemned Israel. CNN reports that the draft statement included language expressing “outrage and sorrow at the killing of Palestinian civilians exercising their right to peaceful protest.” It is the responsibility of the international community to step in and intervene when protesting citizens are being killed, especially in such extreme numbers on such a public stage. Any meaningful step towards progress begins with a united condemnation from the international community, and the United States has no basis for blocking such a resolution. Israel, too, must re-consider its use of force against citizens and evaluate whether women, children, and the elderly really do pose a legitimate threat to the safety of its soldiers and citizens.
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