Summary of joint report by B’Tselem and Palestinian Centre for Humna Rights (PCHR), December 2021
On 30 March 2018 – Land Day – Palestinians in the Gaza Strip began to hold regular protests along the perimeter fence, demanding an end to the blockade Israel has imposed on the Strip since 2007 and fulfillment of the right of return. The protests, held mostly on Fridays with tens of thousands participating, including children, women and seniors, continued until the end of 2019.
Israel was quick to frame the protests as illegitimate even before they began. It made various attempts to prevent the demonstrations and declared in advance it would violently disperse the protesters. The military deployed dozens of snipers along the fence, and various officials clarified that the open-fire regulations would permit lethal fire against anyone attempting to approach the fence or damage it. When Gaza residents went ahead with the demonstrations regardless, Israel made good on its threats and its open-fire regulations permitted use of live fire against unarmed protestors. As a result, 223 Palestinians, 46 of them under the age of 18, were killed and some 8,000 injured. The vast majority of the persons killed or injured were unarmed and posed no threat to the well-armored soldiers standing on the other side of the fence.
Israel responded to international criticism of the casualty toll by saying it would investigate the incidents. Yet today, more than forty months after the first demonstration, it is clear that the military’s investigations in relation to the Gaza protests were never intended to ensure justice for the victims or to deter troops from similar action. These investigations – much like the investigations conducted by the military law enforcement system in other cases in which soldiers have harmed Palestinians – are part of Israel’s whitewashing mechanism, and their main purpose remains to silence external criticism, so that Israel can continue to implement its policy unchanged.