The UN condemns Israel’s ‘excessive force’ against Gaza protesters

Israeli troops on the Israel-Gaza Border
Fréa Lockley

The UN has called Israel’s actions “deplorable” after at least 16 people died and over were 1,000 injured in peaceful protests on the Gaza-Israel border. And it warned against the continued use of “excessive force” by the Israeli military.


Protests began on 30 March, also known as ‘Land Day‘, to highlight Palestinian dispossession. Ahead of the protests, Gadi Eisenkot, Israel Defence Forces (IDF) chief of staff announced that:

We have deployed more than 100 sharpshooters who were called up from all of the military’s units, primarily from the special forces.

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Eisenkot also stated that:

The orders are to use a lot of force.

Thousands of Palestinians are peacefully camped on the Israeli-Gaza border and intend to stay there until 15 May, the 70th anniversary of the Nakba (Arabic for “catastrophe”). Nakba acknowledges the displacement of Palestinians after the founding of the Israeli state.

“Excessive force”

The UN statement clearly says that Gaza is under “military occupation”. It warns against continued use of “excessive force” by Israel:

We remind Israel of its obligations to ensure that excessive force is not employed against protestors and that in the context of a military occupation, as is the case in Gaza, the unjustified and unlawful recourse to firearms by law enforcement resulting in death may amount to a wilful killing, a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

On 31 March, the UN secretary general, António Guterres, called for an independent investigation into the deadly clashes. He also urged Israeli forces to use “extreme caution”. But a UN motion to condemn the violence was blocked by the US.

A week later, Israeli forces shot Yaser Murtaja, a journalist who was wearing a protective jacket labelled ‘press’. He later died of his injuries. Eight other people, including a child, were killed on the same day.

The UN is “gravely concerned”

On 6 April, Liz Throssell, a spokesperson for the UN high commissioner for human rights said in a statement:

Given the deplorable killing of 16 people and the injuring of reportedly more than 1,000 others during protests in Gaza… we are gravely concerned that further violence could occur during demonstrations today and in the coming weeks.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) nearly 2 million Palestinians, including 1.3 million refugees, live in Gaza. Israel has blamed Gaza’s Hamas government for the violence. It said the protesters were part of a “hostile infiltration”. But as The Canary previously reported:

Israel, the US and the EU have designated Hamas as a terrorist organisation. But the party, which rules the Gaza Strip, labels itself “a national resistance movement”.

The UN has been unequivocal in its condemnation of Israeli action:

Given the large number of injuries and deaths, the ominous statements made by Israeli authorities in the days leading up to the protest, as well as indications that the individuals killed or wounded were unarmed or did not pose a serious threat to well-protected security forces – and in some cases were actually running away from the fence – there are strong indications that security forces used excessive force.

Featured image via Wikimedia

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