Four Palestinians were killed and hundreds more were wounded on Friday, April 27, in a fifth round of weekly protests along the Gaza Strip border fence with Israel. Gaza’s Health Ministry announced Saturday that 15-year-old Azzam Oweida, who was hit in the head by a gas canister fired by the Israeli Army during Friday’s protest, died on Saturday from his wounds.
Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman of Gaza’s health ministry, said that the Israeli army targeted several medical service points with an unknown gas that caused convulsions among demonstrators who were exposed there. The demonstrations, entering their fifth-week, have left a total of 45 Palestinians dead, with a reported 5,500 injured. There have been no reports of Israeli casualties.
Amnesty International called for an international arms embargo of Israel over its deadly military response to weekly Palestinian demonstrations on the border with the Gaza Strip since March 30. In a statement Saturday, the human rights organization accused Israel of carrying out a murderous assault on Palestinians participating in the “March of Return” protests.
“The international community must act concretely and stop the delivery of arms and military equipment to Israel,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa. Mughrabi also called for the International Criminal Court to open a “war crimes” investigation if Israel does not pursue “criminal prosecutions of those responsible.”
On Friday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, urged Israeli forces to stop using “excessive force” against the protesters and demanded that troops who have committed abuses “to be held accountable” for them. “Every week, we witness instances of use of lethal force against unarmed demonstrators,” said Al Hussein in a statement.
“Warnings by the United Nations and others have seemingly gone unheeded, as the approach of the security forces from week to week does not seem to have changed,” he added. “The staggering number of injuries caused by live ammunition only confirms the sense that excessive force has been used against demonstrators — not once, not twice, but repeatedly. It is difficult to see how tire-burning or stone-throwing, or even Molotov cocktails thrown from a significant distance at heavily protected security forces in defensive positions can be seen to constitute such a threat,” he said.
“I am extremely concerned that by the end of today — and next Friday, and the Friday after that — more unarmed Palestinians who were alive this morning will have been killed, simply because, while exercising their right to protest, they approached a fence, or otherwise attracted the attention of the soldiers on the other side,” Al Hussein said. “Israel’s failure to consistently prosecute violations committed by members of its security forces encourages them to use deadly force against their fellow unarmed human beings, even when the latter present no threat.”