UK failure to hold Israel to account over unlawful killings risks more deaths in Gaza

UK failure to hold Israel to account over unlawful killings risks more deaths in Gaza

5 April 2018

The UK Government’s failure to condemn Israel’s unlawful killings of Palestinians taking part in demonstrations at Gaza’s border fence on Friday 30 March risks more civilian deaths in Gaza. The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has yet to issue any statement on the killings in Gaza, let alone remind Israel of its international legal responsibilities, above all to cancel all the open-fire regulations that would allow the use of live-fire where there is no imminent threat.  As international, Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations have made clear, the existing open-fire regulations are completely illegal.

The statement from Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt on 1 April was wholly inadequate, and has yet to be followed up with a more substantive statement as the facts have become clearer. It did not even commit to supporting an independent international inquiry, as demanded by both the UN and the EU.

Israeli leaders made clear there was a shoot-to-kill policy ahead of the protest, through the deployment of snipers with orders to kill anyone who approaches the border. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman who tweeted in Arabic that, “Anyone who approaches the border puts his life in jeopardy.”

Given explicit promises from Israeli military personnel and officials of further harsh reaction to demonstrations, the likelihood of yet more bloodshed is high. Further demonstrations will take place on Friday 6 April and on every Friday until 15 May. It is a grim reality that Israeli human rights organisations such as B’Tselem (whose work the UK Government should commend and support), have to launch a campaign urging Israeli soldiers to defy orders and not shoot on unarmed protestors.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians from Gaza demonstrated at the border with Israel on Friday 30 March 2018, to mark the Palestinian ‘Land Day’, which began a series of events leading up to the 70th anniversary of the Nakba. At least 17 Palestinians were killed on 30 March. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that there were 1,416 injuries, of which 1,010 were severe and required immediate transfer to hospitals. 179 of the injured were children. Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) have highlighted that as many as 758 people received gun shot wounds, and that many of these were to lower limbs.

Caabu patron Baroness Sayeeda Warsi said:

“All must be done to avert further loss of life. Disproportionate and excessive violence carried out by a key ally and friend Israel, including the use of live ammunition against unarmed persons should be both strongly condemned and acted upon. With every mealy-mouthed statement and signalling of a need to return to a non-existent peace process, we witness a spike in further violations of international law, with the knowledge that such condemnations come with zero consequence. This is the depressing norm of UK foreign policy towards Israeli violations of international law.“

Caabu is deeply concerned that Britain is complicit in creating and fostering a culture of impunity regarding Israel and in failing its legal obligations to hold it accountable for the systematic violations of Palestinian human rights.  Palestinians should not have to wait for the outcome of a political process they have little control over to have these basic rights, including the right to life, strictly adhered to.  This silence speaks volumes; symbolic of a UK foreign policy on Israel-Palestine plummeting further into irrelevance, yet with a mounting human cost in Gaza.  


Notes to editors:

  1. For more information or interviews contact Chris Doyle, on + 44207 832 1321 or +447968 040281.
  2. Baroness Sayeeda Warsi resigned from the UK Government over the UK Government’s “morally indefensible” policy on Gaza during Operation Protective Edge