Dozens of people were killed and hundreds injured on Monday amid reports of Israeli forces firing live ammunition at protesters protesting against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem. Israeli forces faced accusations of using “disproportionate force” against Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza.
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said “those responsible for outrageous human rights violations must be held to account.” In an earlier statement, the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said it was “gravely concerned” that many of those killed or injured during weeks of protests were reportedly posing no imminent threat when they were shot.
The statement also called on Israel to “fully respect the norms of humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and to lift the blockade of the Gaza strip”, and to “put an immediate end to the disproportionate use of force against Palestinian demonstrators in the Gaza strip, refrain from any act that could lead to further casualties and ensure prompt and unimpeded access to medical treatment to injured Palestinians”.
Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch’s executive director for the Middle East and North Africa, said Israeli authorities’ policy of firing at protesters irrespective of whether there was an immediate threat to life had resulted in a “bloodbath that anyone could have foreseen”.
Philip Luther, research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, said: “This is another horrific example of the Israeli military using excessive force and live ammunition in a totally deplorable way. This is a violation of international standards, in some instances committing what appear to be wilful killings constituting war crimes.”
Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said that firing live ammunition at protesters showed “appalling indifference to human life on the part of senior Israeli government and military officials” and called for an immediate halt to the killing of protesters.