Explaining that "firing at the lower half of the body above the knee led to the deaths of many people," a senior officer in the Israeli military has said snipers operating along the border of the occupied Gaza Strip are now being trained to shoot at the ankles of protesting Palestinians as opposed to above-the-knee targeting that led to thousands of people being gunned down—hundreds killed and others maimed—over recent years.
"[New policy] in no way suggests that the military attaches great value to human life. On the contrary, it shows that the military consciously chose not to regard those standing on the other side of the fence as humans." —B'Tselem
While killing Palestinians "was not our objective," said the unnamed military commander, identified by the Jerusalem Post as a senior officer at the Israel Defense Force's Lotar counter-terrorism training school, the previous rules of engagement did not restrict the area of the body that could be targeted. Now, the officer explained, IDF snipers are being instructed to shoot at the ankles and shins of protesters.
According to the Post:
B'Tselem – The Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories said on Wednesday that the IDF's decision to change the regulations "in no way suggests that the military attaches great value to human life. On the contrary, it shows that the military consciously chose not to regard those standing on the other side of the fence as humans. In its naivety, the High Court of Justice approved this practice. Both the military and the court bear the responsibility for this criminal policy."
Thousands of Gazans protest along the security fence on a weekly basis, taking part in "Great Return March" demonstrations which began on March 30, calling for an end of the 12-year-long Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
On Twitter, Kevin Jon Heller, an associate professor of international law at the University of Amsterdam, noted the incongruity of an order that attempts to present itself as more humane or "moral" but which, in fact, sanctions snipers to shoot unarmed people protesting against their oppression by an occupying military force:
#Israel’s “most moral” #IDF admits sniping legs has an unfortunate tendency to kill, so it instructs its snipers to shoot at ankles. Sniping innocent protesters, however, is still fine. https://t.co/E0iwxrSX4o
— Kevin Jon Heller (@kevinjonheller) July 25, 2019
Earlier this year, as Common Dreams reported, the United Nations release a "damning report" of Israel's use of snipers against unarmed and non-threatening Palestinian protesters near the Gaza border in 2018.
"The Israeli security forces killed and maimed Palestinian demonstrators who did not pose an imminent threat of death or serious injury to others when they were shot, nor were they directly participating in hostilities," the U.N. officials wrote in the report (pdf), which relied on interviews, thousands of documents, and video footage showing Israeli soldiers using live ammunition against Palestinians—including children, journalists, and medical workers.
According to the UN report— the result of a months-long investigation—Israeli snipers killed over 180 unarmed Palestinians and injured more than 6,100 others with live ammunition between March 30 and December 31 of 2018.
Over a longer time period, those numbers are even larger.