NGO urges Israeli soldiers to refuse to fire on Gaza protesters
SAID KHATIB (AFP)
A left-wing human rights group on Wednesday kicked off a campaign calling on Israeli soldiers to refuse orders that they use live fire against Palestinian protesters who approach the Gaza-Israel border, ahead of expected renewed clashes on Friday.
The Israeli military drew international, and some local, ire last Friday when 19 people were killed while taking part in the 'Great March of Return' in Gaza.
"The use of live ammunition blatantly unlawful in the case of soldiers firing from a great distance at demonstrators located on the other side of the fence that separates Israel from the Gaza Strip," the group said in a statement.
"It is ... a criminal offense to obey patently illegal orders," continued the NGO, which campaigns against Israel's continuing military control over the West Bank and the partial economic blockade on Gaza.
"Therefore, as long as soldiers in the field continue to receive orders to use live fire against unarmed civilians, they are duty-bound to refuse to comply."
Describing it as an "unusual step" B'Tselem said they will take out advertisements in Israeli newspapers on Thursday appealing to soldiers to refuse to obey their commanders.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has furiously rejected the assertion that soldiers fired on unarmed, peaceful protesters.
In the wake of Friday's violence the IDF launched a campaign of its own, accusing the Islamist militant group Hamas of attempting to attack Israeli forces under the cover of demonstrators.
It also released footage showing Palestinians shooting at Israeli forces stationed on the other side of the border and said that 10 of those killed were known militants.
Friday’s march kicked off six weeks of protests set to culminate on May 14, when the United States is expected to cut the ribbon on its new embassy in Jerusalem.
In a statement issued Wednesday morning, protest organizers confirmed they would hold another mass event on Friday, and urged all participants to act peacefully and give the heavily armed border fence a wide berth.
“We welcome all participants of all factions and appreciate their work for the success of this action that embarrassed Israel throughout the world,” the statement, as quoted by Haaretz, said.
“Israel continues with all its might and by all means including its collaborators to spoil the event and lead to a frontal clash to defend itself to the international community. And so we have made sure to convey messages to the entire Palestinian public in the Gaza Strip and all who intend on participating not to break the rules.”
Israeli newspaper Yedioth Aharonot reported on Tuesday that participants were stockpiling mirrors to reflect light into the scopes of snipers and tires to create a thick smoke screen.
Since Friday’s march dozens of Palestinians have taken part in ongoing confrontations along the Gaza-Israel border.
The participants seek the return to what is now Israel of the thousands of people who were displaced by the state’s creation in 1948.
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