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The New Arab

UN condemns Israel over 'serious rights violations' against Gaza protesters

Great Return March protests started almost a year ago [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 March, 2019

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The United Nations has urged the international community to get involved to prevent Israeli soldiers killing Palestinians as the first anniversary for Great Return March protests near.

UN investigators have concluded that Israel has committed serious human rights violations by shooting at unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza over the past year.

Speaking in Geneva, Chairperson of the UN Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry on the Great Return March protests explained what the panel knew about the Israeli army’s relevant military protocols with regard to demonstrators.

“We found reasonable grounds to believe that the Israeli Security Forces committed serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law” Santiago Canton said.

They also pressed on Israel to revise its military rules of engagement that allow such abuses, as the first anniversary of the Great Return March protests near.

“Under the rules, they could be shot in the leg at any moment,” he said. “While in theory, this key inciter status was to be conferred only when the crowd was posing an imminent threat to life, in reality - and that has been one of the main findings of the Commission - that was rarely the case.”

The organisation urged for the international community to take action against Israel’s violation of human rights seriously to deter their deadly attacks.

“We hope that the international community gets involved in order to avoid more killings and more shootings during the anniversary,” Canton told reporters after his address.

At least 252 Palestinians have been killed by Israel since March 2018, the majority shot during the weekly border protests and others hit by tank fire or air strikes in response to violence from Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza.

Great Return March protests began along the Gaza border on 30 March last year in the run up to the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, or catastrophe, the name Palestinians give to the foundation of the Israeli state in 1948 and concurrent ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

Demonstrators under the banner of the "Great Return March" have been calling for Palestinian refugees to be allowed to return to their former homes, which are now inside Israel, which Israeli officials say is tantamount to a call for the destruction of the Jewish state.

Israel has accused Hamas, which controls the political authority of the Gaza strip, of using the protests as cover for infiltrations and attacks, while rights groups and Palestinians say protesters posing little threat have been shot by Israeli snipers.

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