UN war crimes investigators called on Israel to stop its snipers using lethal force against Palestinian protesters on the border with Gaza.

Palestinian demonstrators run for cover from Israeli fire and tear gas during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border in the southern Gaza.
Palestinian demonstrators run for cover from Israeli fire and tear gas during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border in the southern Gaza. (Reuters Archive)

The Israeli Security Forces violated international human rights and humanitarian law in Palestine's occupied Gaza strip, the UN commission said on Monday.

"Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, and must be immediately investigated by Israel," Betty Kaari Murungi, Commissioner of Kenya said in a report published by the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Murungi stressed that Israeli soldiers killed and injured civilians during the Great March of Return protests, who were neither "participating directly in hostilities nor posing an imminent threat to the Israeli Security Forces, or to the civilian population in Israel."

The commission urged Israel to revise its rules of engagement before a large protest expected on the anniversary of the protests.

"We present this comprehensive report with an urgent plea to Israel to immediately ensure that the rules of engagement of their security forces are revised to comply with international legal standards," the Chair of the Commission of Argentina, Santiago Canton, told the Human Rights Council.

He added that the "excessive use of force" that took place on March 30, May 14 and October 12, 2018 "must not be repeated".

Recalling a senior Israeli official’s statement that "each and every bullet" fired by security forces during the protests had received authorization from an experienced commander he said the commission found that lethal force had been authorized, "in the majority of cases", unlawfully.

"This inevitably led to arbitrary deprivation of life," he said.

He underlined that Israeli security forces shot and wounded 6,016 protesters with live ammunition in 2018 alone, leaving 189 dead.

"The Commission found there was no justification for Israel’s security forces killing and injuring persons who pose no imminent threat of death or serious injury to those around them, including journalists, health workers, and children," Canton added.

He underscored that Israeli security forces’ practices of shooting so-called "key inciters" or "key rioters" for actions such as burning tires, cutting or breaching through the separation fence between Israel and Gaza, or leading crowds towards the fence contributed to "unlawful actions".

"We strongly disagree with the suggestion that the targeting of these demonstrators meets the high human rights standards for using lethal force," Canton said, calling on protesters and organizers in Gaza to keep the demonstrations "entirely peaceful and non-violent", in accordance with the principles set out by the initiators of this movement.

Israel says the UN council is biased, and it boycotted the day-long debate, while hundreds of Israel supporters rallied outside the United Nations in Geneva, including senior US officials.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies