Human Rights Watch Calls on Israel to Stop Shooting at Gaza Civilians

26 Apr
8:03 PM

Israel must stop shooting at Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, Human Rights Watch said Friday, noting four have been killed near the border fence since the beginning of 2014. (AFP/Ma’an) A report by the New York-based watchdog cited UN data which also said more than 60 civilians were wounded by Israeli gunfire near the perimeter fence of the Palestinian enclave led by the Islamist Hamas.

It focused on seven incidents between Jan. 2 and March 1, in which the four were killed and five others wounded, ‘none of whom posed a threat to the soldiers or others.’

HRW noted that ‘Palestinians living in the densely inhabited Gaza Strip use land near the fence with Israel for agriculture, collecting rubble, scrap metal, and other reusable materials, and recreation.’

‘Month after month, Israeli forces have wounded and killed unarmed Palestinians who did nothing but cross an invisible, shifting line that Israel has drawn inside Gaza’s perimeter,’ said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director.

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli army, did not challenge the facts but slammed the report which he said ‘completely ignored the reality of the state of conflict we have with Gaza, the perimeter with which is a springboard for terrorism from the Strip.’

He said ‘the 100-meter (yard) limit’ from the border fence, which was agreed upon under the terms reached after an eight-day confrontation between Israel and Hamas militants in November 2012, was ‘known and widespread.’

‘People approaching the fence are putting themselves at risk,’ Lerner added, noting the army fires warning shots before aiming at people.

HRW maintained in its report: ‘While firing warning shots may reduce the likelihood of shooting a civilian, a failure to heed warning shots does not turn a civilian into a lawful military target.’

In related Gaza news, Ma’an reports that a Palestinian fisherman was shot and injured by Israeli forces off the coast of the Gaza Strip early Saturday, according to security sources.

Gaza security sources told Ma’an that Israeli naval squadrons off the coast of northern Gaza fired at a Palestinian fishing boat, hitting a man in the foot.

The man was taken to Kamal Udwan Hospital for treatment, the sources said.

An Israeli military spokesman did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

In the Oslo Accords, Israel agreed to a 20-nautical-mile fishing zone off Gaza’s coast, but it has imposed a three-mile limit for several years, opening fire at fishermen who stray further.

Israel has controlled Gaza waters since its occupation of the area in 1967, and has kept several warships stationed off the coast since 2008.

In the West Bank, three Palestinians were lightly injured and one was taken into custody, Friday, during clashes with Israeli soldiers east of Jerusalem, according to a local popular committee spokesman.

Hani Halabiya told Ma’an that, during protests in al-Eizariya and Abu Dis against ‘Israeli incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque,’ three young Palestinian men were hit by rubber-coated steel bullets in the lower extremities.

Israeli troops also detained a 28-year-old man in the area after pulling him over in his car, Halabiya said.

Additionally, Israeli forces stopped a Palestinian photojournalist who works for al-Quds newspaper and forced him to delete the photos he took of the clashes.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said she was not familiar with the incident.

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