In the past two weeks, more than 30 Palestinians have been killed and over 2,700 injured along the border between Israel and the occupied Gaza Strip.
Tens of thousands have gathered there to participate in the Great March of Return, a protest against conditions in Gaza and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
“We have seen lots of documented evidence on video of Palestinian protesters who were shot when they were in no way posing any imminent threat,” says Yousef Munayyer, the executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights.
He says Israel’s decision to station 100 snipers on the border, authorised to use lethal force, is criminal.
The Palestinians killed include Omar Samour, a 31-year-old farmer shot and killed on his land.
Journalist Yasser Murtaja was also shot and killed despite carrying a video camera and wearing a flak jacket marked “press”, and teenager Abdul Fattah Abdul Nabi was shot in the head when he was running away from the Gaza-Israel border fence.
However, former Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel Danny Ayalon insists no unarmed protesters have been shot. He claims Hamas is committing war crimes by sending the protesters to the border and embedding snipers and people carrying explosives among them.
Israel’s Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman went a step further, saying last week “there are no innocent people in the Gaza Strip” and everyone there is connected to Hamas. Lieberman has defended the tactics used on the border, saying the Israeli army operated exceptionally well.
With video evidence of unarmed protesters shot and killed, Munayyer says blaming Hamas “is an attempt to justify what is clearly murder.” He says Palestinians have the right to peacefully protest anywhere, and the murders happened because “it was Israeli soldiers acting on the orders of the Israeli government, not Hamas.”
Protest organisers say Hamas was invited to provide logistical support to the demonstration and Hamas says it continues to call for peaceful protests.
Whether Hamas exists or not, Munayyer says the right of free movement for the people in occupied Gaza remains. “These protests are going to continue,” he says. “They are inspiring for Palestinians who are looking at mass popular mobilisation as a way to continue to resist and demand their rights.”
Source: Al Jazeera News