22 May 2018 – Crisis in Gaza-Protection of Civilians


It has been a week since the 14 May massacre carried out by Israel, the occupying Power, against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, in which at least 62 civilians were killed and more than 2,000 civilians injured, including children. As the traumatic causes and consequences of this heinous crime remain without remedy, tensions continue to rise and despair continues to deepen, threatening even further destabilization.

The fact remains that, despite our repeated appeals for urgent international action to deter Israel from its criminal behavior towards the Palestinian people, the absence of serious efforts to hold the occupying Power accountable and reign it in, has only made our people more vulnerable to the brutality of this illegal occupation. We are thus compelled to reiterate the call made at the 15 May emergency Security Council meeting, and countless times prior to it, for the protection of the Palestinian people, in compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law and numerous relevant resolutions, in particular concerning the protection of civilians in armed conflict, including children.

This call for protection has been echoed widely in the Council chamber and from capitals and humanitarian and human rights organizations worldwide. It is a call for protecting and ensuring the safety and well-being of a defenseless civilian population being held captive under a more than half-century occupation and more than decade blockade. It has equally been a call for rescuing the tenets of international law, which are being shredded by the occupying Power and those shielding it from censure and aiding it in its criminality. The consequences have been dire for the Palestinian people and continue to be, compelling us to persistently raise the alarm on this matter.

In this regard, I must inform you that, on the day following the massacre, on 15 May, Israeli occupying forces shot and killed two more Palestinian civilians, Bilal Budeir Hussein al-Ashram, age 17, and Naser Ahmad Mahmoud Ghurab, age 51, and injured 40 other civilians by live ammunition, including 7 children, a paramedic and a journalist. On 19 May, two Palestinian civilians succombed to the wounds they had sustained from Israel live ammunition, Mouin Abdelhamid al-Saai, age 58, and Mohammed Mazin Alian, age 20. This brings the total number of Palestinians killed since the Great March of Return began on 30 March to 108 civilians, including 15 children.

There is an abundance of evidence that these killings were deliberate and not the result of some kind of oversight or overreaction by the occupation forces. Indeed, many of those killed were shot in the back, with weapons designed to induce maximum damage to the human body, and many were hundreds of meters from the fence, men, women, children, journalists, and paramedics posing no threat whatsoever.

In this regard, it must be pointed out that Israeli army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus stated of Palestinian protesters, “We shoot in order to stop them so that they cannot harm the security infrastructure and infiltrate into Israel,” a direct admission that the use of snipers and live fire to shoot protesters was not to prevent an imminent threat to life.

Amnesty International has described the killings on 14 May as “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 willful killings constituting war crimes.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has stated, “The rules on the use of force under international law have been repeated many times but appear to have been ignored again and again. It seems anyone is liable to be shot dead or injured: women, children, press personnel, first responders, bystanders, and at almost any point up to 700m from the fence.” Journalists and human rights observers have further described “individual snipers safely ensconced hundreds of feet, even farther, away, targeting individual protesters and executing them one at a time,” (Human Rights Watch).

As firmly expressed by the UN’s Special Coordinator for Middle East peace, Nikolay Mladenov, at the 14 May Security Council meeting, “There is no justification for the killing. There is no excuse.” Yet, some statements at the Council tried to do just that—to justify the massacre. It was extremely disheartening to hear in those remarks the obscene accusation that Palestinians are somehow responsible for their own deaths. Since when does the victim bring about the act of his or her own victimization?

Had the victims of brutal massacres such as the ones witnessed on 14 May and over the past seven weeks been non-Palestinian, non-Arab, would some countries have dared accuse these victims of staging their own deaths? Of being responsible for their own suffering? Would the Security Council have been deaf to their cries for freedom? Would it have been unable to issue a statement merely calling for the respect of international law, an end to the slaughter, and an investigation into the killing and wounding of so many civilians?

Statements illustrating this dehumanization of the Palestinian people include a US government spokesperson calling the killing of Palestinians “a propaganda attempt”. Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs, referred to Palestinians protesters in Gaza as “Nazis” twice on 14 May. An Israeli government spokesperson also “explained” that the use of live fire and the execution of Palestinian protesters in Gaza is taking place because Israel “can’t put all these people in jail.” In this regard, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has expressed concern about the “rise of racist hate speech and incitement to racist violence against Palestinians by Israeli governmental officials and members of the ISF”.

Palestinians, like all other human beings, deserve the attention and action of the international community and must be accorded protection in line with international law. The message should not be sent that their lives are dispensable, not worthy of the international community’s time, not worthy of even a statement by the Security Council. To those who doubt, we repeat: Palestinian lives matter too. We grieve the lives of all who have been lost. The names of the Palestinian civilian protesters executed on 14 May are the following:

  1. Laila Anwar Al-Ghandoor, 8 months old
  2. Ezz el-din Musa Mohamed Alsamaak, age 14
  3. Wisaal Fadl Ezzat Alsheikh Khalil, age 15
  4. Ahmed Adel Musa Alshaer, age 16
  5. Saeed Mohamed Abu Alkheir, age 16
  6. Saadi Said Fahmi Abu Salah, age 16
  7. Talal Adel Ibrahim Mattar, age 16
  8. Ibrahim Ahmed Alzarqa, age 18
  9. Abdulrahman Sami Abu Mattar, age 18
  10. Bilal Badeer Hussein Al-Ashram, age 18
  11. Eman Ali Sadiq Alsheikh, age 19
  12. Kamil Jihad Kamil Mihna, age 19
  13. Zayid Mohamed Hasan Omar, age 19
  14. Motassem Fawzy Abu Louley, age 20
  15. Anas Hamdan Salim Qadeeh, age 21
  16. Ali Mohamed Ahmed Khafajah, age 21
  17. Mohamed Abd Alsalam Harz, age 21
  18. Mahmoud Wael Mahmoud Jundeyah, age 21
  19. Yehia Ismail Rajab Aldaqoor, age 22
  20. Mustafa Mohamed Samir Mahmoud Almasry, age 22
  21. Ezz Eldeen Nahid Aloyutey, age 23
  22. Mahmoud Mustafa Ahmed Assaf, age 23
  23. Mokhtar Kaamil Salim Abu Khamash, age 23
  24. Mahmoud Saber Hamad Abu Taeemah, age 23
  25. Ahmed Fayez Harb Shahadah, age 23
  26. Ahmed Awad Allah, age 24
  27. Ahmed Zahir Hamid Alshawa, age 24
  28. Mahmoud Yahya Abdawahab Hussain, age 24
  29. Khalil Ismail Khalil Mansor, age 25
  30. Mohamed Hasan Mustafa Alabadilah, age 25
  31. Mohamed Ashraf Abu Sitta, age 26
  32. Bilal Ahmed Abu Diqah, age 26
  33. Ahmed Salim Alyaan Aljarf, age 26
  34. Ahmed Majed Qaasim Ata Allah, age 27
  35. Mohamed Samir Duwedar, age 27
  36. Ahmed Mohammed Ibrahim Hamdan, age 27
  37. Ahmed Mahmoud Mohammed Alrantisi, age 27
  38. Mahmoud Rabah Abu Maamar, age 28
  39. Musab Yousef Abu Leilah, age 28
  40. Ahmed Fawzy Altetr, age 28
  41. Mohamed Abdelrahman Meqdad, age 28
  42. Alaa Alnoor Ahmed Alkhatib, age 28
  43. Obaidah Salim Farhan, age 30
  44. Jihad Mufid Al-Farra, age 30
  45. Ismail Khalil Ramadhan Aldaahuk, age 30
  46. Omar Jomaa Abu Ful, age 30
  47. Ahmed Abdullah Aladini, age 30
  48. Fadi Hassan Abu Salah, age 30
  49. Motaz Bassam Kamil Al-Nunu, age 31
  50. Mohammed Riyad Abdulrahman Alamudi, age 31
  51. Jihad Mohammed Othman Mousa, age 31
  52. Shahir Mahmoud Mohammed Almadhoon, age 32
  53. Mahmoud Sulayman Ibrahim Aql, age 32
  54. Mohammed Hani Hosni Alnajjar, age 33
  55. Fadl Mohamed Ata Habshy, age 34
  56. Mousa Jabr Abdulsalam Abu Hasnayn, age 35
  57. Mohammed Mahmoud Abdulmoti Abdal’al, age 39
  58. Abdelsalam Yousef Abdelwahab, age 39
  59. Nasser Ahmed Mahmoud Ghrab, age 51
  60. 60 – 62: Unidentified

Additionally, more than 12,600 Palestinian civilians have been injured throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory since the protests began. Of those injured, most have required hospitalization, with many still in serious or critical condition, among them more than 3,500 shot with live ammunition, many who will be disabled for life.

In this regard, Doctors Without Borders stated on 14 May: “What happened today is unacceptable and inhuman…It is unbearable to witness such a massive number of unarmed people being shot in such a short time… This bloodbath is the continuation of the Israeli army’s policy during the last seven weeks: shooting with live ammunition at demonstrators, on the assumption that anyone approaching the separation fence is a legitimate target. Most of the wounded will be condemned to suffer lifelong injuries.”

The mass influx of injuries has led the already-crumbling health care system in Gaza to be placed under such strain that it is now “near breaking point”, according to Medical Aid for Palestinians, a UK-based NGO working on the ground in Gaza. As stated by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, “those suffering life-threatening injuries face a nightmarish scenario in the absence of adequate hospital beds and medical services. We are still witnessing cases in which injured demonstrators are effectively prevented by Israel from exiting Gaza for treatment.”

Humanitarian Coordinator, Jamie McGoldrick, expressed on May 17 that “medicines and supplies are being depleted, with few resources to replenish them. Our ability to reach affected families, including children, and provide assistance is extremely limited due to funding shortfalls. Without new funding, the impact on the survivors of recent events will be far worse and our ability to respond to any new needs will be severely limited.” These new needs are taking place in the context of the pre-existing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza caused by over a decade of Israeli blockade and repeated Israeli military aggressions.

To compound this appalling reality, Israel, the occupying Power, has continued targeting medical staff and equipment. According to the World Health Organization, one health staff has been killed and 229 injured while providing treatment to the wounded since the start of the protests on 30 March. 32 ambulances have also been damaged.

The paramedic who was killed, Musa Abuhassanin, was shot in the chest while rescuing another victim under fire. He had just come back from treating Dr. Tarek Loubani, a Canadian Ontario-based physician, who was shot and wounded on 14 May while wearing “full hospital greens” and standing with a group of other medical professionals away from the main protest area, but in view of three Israeli sniper outposts.

Those who have not been killed while peacefully protesting in Gaza continue to die a slow death as a result of Israel’s continued cruel blockade of Gaza, which has entered its 11th year. For example, the world’s leading authority on Gaza’s economy, Sara Roy, has stated that “Innocent human beings, most of them young, are slowly being poisoned by the water they drink” as 95% of Gaza’s water resources have become unfit for human consumption.

Against this backdrop of criminal activity in Gaza, we have witnessed another obscenity a week ago, on 14 May: the juxtaposition of US and Israeli officials celebrating their violations of international law during the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, with the images of bloodshed as innocent civilians were being massacred about 40 miles away in Gaza. We reiterate that, through its provocative and illegal decision, in blatant contravention of the Security Council’s resolutions, including resolutions 476 (1980), 478 (1980) and 2334 (2016) and the unequivocal prohibition of the acquisition of territory by force, the US has aggravated this situation and further emboldened Israeli impunity to persist with its violations of international law and emboldened other States, including Guatemala and Paraguay, to flout international law and UN resolutions.

The international community must not remain silent in the face of this illegal and unjust situation.  In light of Israel’s willful killing and maiming of unarmed protesters in Gaza, we again call for international protection for the Palestinian people as a matter of urgency.

We welcome the 18 May decision of the Human Rights Council to establish an independent, international commission of inquiry, in view of investigating all cases of death and injury since 30 March and ensuring accountability for the violations of international law that took place in the context of the large-scale civilian protests in Gaza. This investigation must just be the start of efforts at the United Nations to bring an end to the illegal occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, to the illegal blockade of Gaza, to the decades of dispossession of Palestine refugees, all of which constitute the root causes of this ongoing crisis and the brutality we have witnessed in the past month.

We also appeal to all States to continue their vital humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, especially in view of the medical emergency in Gaza and to increase their support to UNRWA, which beyond provision of assistance remains a lifeline for so many vulnerable refugees in the absence of a just solution and growing despair and uncertainty about the future.

Despite the decades of oppression faced by the Palestinian people, we remain committed to ensuring their rights, justice and human dignity, and remain convinced that peaceful means and international legality will lead to an end of their suffering.  In these days of mourning, we once again call upon the international community, with the Security Council at the forefront, to act, in line with legal obligations and commitments, to address this crisis and reinforce the value and integrity of international law, as well as our faith in the international system.

This letter is in follow-up to our 633 previous letters regarding the ongoing crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, which constitutes the territory of the State of Palestine. These letters, dated from 29 September 2000 (A/55/432-S/2000/921) to 14 May 2018 (XXX) constitute a basic record of the crimes being committed by Israel, the occupying Power, against the Palestinian people since September 2000.  For all of these war crimes, acts of State terror and systematic human rights violations being committed against the Palestinian people, Israel, the occupying Power, must be held accountable and the perpetrators be brought to justice.

I should be grateful if you would arrange to have this letter made available to the members of the Security Council for their immediate and valuable consideration and also distributed as an official document of the Security Council.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Dr. Riyad Mansour

Ambassador, Permanent Observer

of the State of Palestine to the United Nations