As the March of Great Return continued along the Israeli border on Friday, Gaza health officials reported that Israeli forces ignored international calls for restraint and injured more than 500 Palestinians with tear gas and live ammunition, shooting at least 122 protesters.
"Israel is treating the protest in Gaza as it has handled similar events in the past: Broad, unlawful use of lethal force at a heavy price to lives, baseless legal interpretations issued to justify this policy, and whitewashing the crimes within days."
While thousands of Palestinians gathered at the border for the third consecutive Friday as part of a six-week protest of Israel's occupation, human rights and peace advocates fiercely condemned "the unlawful shooting of unarmed demonstrators in Gaza" as ordered by top Israeli officials.
Since the protests began last month, at least 34 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces.
"For the past two weeks, the world has watched in horror as Israeli forces unleashed excessive, deadly force against protesters, including children, who merely demand an end to Israel's brutal policies towards Gaza and a life of dignity," said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Denouncing Israel's "horrifying use of live ammunition against unarmed protesters," Mughrabi also noted that "under international law, lethal force can only be used when unavoidable to protect against imminent threats to life."
"Israel is treating the protest in Gaza as it has handled similar events in the past: Broad, unlawful use of lethal force at a heavy price to lives, baseless legal interpretations issued to justify this policy, and whitewashing the crimes within days," declared the Israel-based group B'Tselem.
If the international community does not pressure Israel to stop firing at protesters, B'Tselem warned, "it will pull the rug out from under the global effort to protect human rights in the post-WWII era."
The groups also repeated calls for an independent investigation into Israeli forces' use of firearms against protesters.
We are still calling for an independent and effective investigation into reports that #Israeli soldiers unlawfully used firearms and other excessive force against unarmed protesters since 30 March in #Gaza.
— AmnestyInternational (@amnesty) April 13, 2018
Ahead of the protests on Friday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and five Democrats in the House broke with the party establishment and spoke out against the violence by Israeli forces.
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"I am deeply concerned about the deaths and injuries in Gaza," Warren told The Intercept on Thursday. "As additional protests are planned for the coming days, the Israel Defense Forces should exercise restraint and respect the rights of Palestinians to peacefully protest."
The five representatives issued a statement urging Palestinians to demonstrate nonviolently and Israeli soldiers "to refrain from shooting live ammunition at unarmed Palestinian protesters from hundreds of meters away, across the fence separating the two territories."
We are all watching as Israeli soldiers once again fire upon protesters.
We thank Members of Congress who spoke up today: @repmarkpocan @RepJayapal @RepKeithEllison and @repHenry @RepHankJohnson join @RepBarbaraLee in a statement: https://t.co/p8decDvLCrhttps://t.co/N09NJCLz1Z
— JewishVoiceForPeace (@jvplive) April 13, 2018
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was the first member of Congress to condemn Israel's response to the protests in a pair of tweets late last month.
Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, and other advocates are encouraging Americans to contact their federal representatives to push them to respond to the killings:
“This is an opportunity for people to communicate with their representatives and demand action on this front...It’s an opportunity for accountability.” @YousefMunayyer #GreatReturnMarchhttps://t.co/6dFvi7TPI1
— Palestinian Rights (@US_Campaign) April 13, 2018
#HowManyMore Gazans need to die before you join your colleagues @SenSanders and @SenWarren in condemning the Israeli army for killing 34 Palestinian protesters @SenFeinstein? pic.twitter.com/mgFP7uGigp
— IfNotNow (@IfNotNowOrg) April 13, 2018
Some advocates are called for an immediate arms embargo on Israel:
Human rights advocates are calling for an arms embargo on Israel because Israeli snipers are shooting unarmed Palestinians in Gaza. In the US, advocates want an inquiry into alleged Israeli violations of US laws governing arms exports https://t.co/3uwqfQoOka Me in @thenation
— Alex Kane (@alexbkane) April 13, 2018