From the beginning of the Great March of Return protests on Land Day, 30 March 2018 until the end of June 2019, Israeli security forces killed 216 Palestinians, 43 of them minors, and wounded thousands, the vast majority with live ammunition. However, security forces also make deadly use of crowd control weapons, including tear gas canisters which are not designed to hit people directly.
At least seven of the Palestinians killed died as a result of a teargas canister hitting their head or face directly. Four of them were minors. According to the OCHA Protection of Civilians Database, as of 28 June 2019, more than 1,600 Gaza protestors arrived in hospital with injuries resulting from direct teargas canister hits, more than a third of them in the first three months of 2019.
Teargas canisters are a crowd control weapon with a firing range spanning 100 meters to several hundred meters, in the case of extended range canisters. They are designed to be non-lethal and the open-fire regulations, at least officially, as well as use instructions, forbid firing them directly at people due to the grave danger involved.
In the past few months, B’Tselem’s field researchers in the Gaza Strip collected testimonies from protestors who were injured by teargas canisters and eyewitnesses. These testimonies indicate that security forces routinely fire teargas canisters directly at protestors, in contravention of the regulations. The testimonies also indicate teargas canisters are fired from elevated positions, relative to the perimeter fence (earth embankments, or the roofs of military jeeps), or through gaps in the fence itself. B’Tselem has documented direct firing of teargas canisters in the West Bank, which resulted in severe injuries and killed at least two people.
Firing tear gas canisters directly at protestors is not a stand-alone practice. It is part of the open-fire policy Israel has been implementing along the Gaza border for more than a year. This policy, which has so far claimed the lives of more than 200 protestors and injured thousands is patently unlawful and immoral. Using lethal fire, whether live or otherwise, against protestors the vast majority of whom are unarmed and pose no danger to the lives of armored security forces on the other side of the fence, in the same way for more than a year, despite its well-documented horrific results is yet another expression of Israel’s disregard for the lives and bodily integrity of Palestinians.
Muhammad Fseifes, 21, injured in head – 31 May 2019
At about 3:00 P.M. on Friday, 31 May 2019, Muhammad Fseifes, 23, a resident of ‘Abasan al-Kabirah who is unemployed, arrived at the protest near the Gaza perimeter fence to the north of the town of Khuza’ah. At about 3:30 P.M., Fseifes and a group of young men, some waving Palestinian flags, moved forward to a spot a few dozen meters from the fence. Hanan Abu Tibah, 30, a resident of Bani Suheila, married and mother of four, also went with the group, waving a Palestinian flag.
In a testimony taken on 19 June 2019 by B’Tselem field researcher Khaled al-‘Azayzeh, Abu Tibah related: