Israeli Supreme Court gives green light to continued use of live fire, snipers against Gaza protesters

Supreme Court fully adopts Israeli military’s position, refused to watch videos documenting shooting of Gaza demonstrators; Israeli military has killed more than 100 in Gaza since 30 March.

The Israeli Supreme Court on Thursday night, 24 May 2018, rejected two petitions filed by human rights groups and fully adopted the Israeli military’s position, giving a green light to its continued use of snipers and live fire against Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip.


Three Supreme Court justices unanimously rejected the two petitions – one filed by Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and another by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Yesh Din, Gisha - Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, and HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual – fully accepting the military’s claims related to the use of live fire on protesters.


The court ruled that the Israeli military’s firing of live ammunition at protesters was in accordance with the law because, according to the court, the protest participants constituted a real danger to Israeli soldiers and citizens.


Adalah and Al Mezan responded late Thursday night to the Israeli Supreme Court’s ruling:


“The Israeli Supreme Court completely ignored the broad factual basis presented to it by the petitioners, which includes multiple testimonies of wounded and reports of international organizations involved in documenting the killing and wounding of unarmed protesters in Gaza. It is worth noting that the Israeli Supreme Court refused to watch video clips documenting Israeli shootings of demonstrators and, rather than actually examining the case, fully accepted the claims presented to it by the state. The extreme nature of the ruling is also highlighted by the striking absence of any mention of the casualty figures that had been presented to the court.”


Adalah and Al Mezan also noted that "this ruling, which justifies the shooting of protesters, contradicts the conclusions and preliminary results of international human rights organizations and United Nations bodies documenting and evaluating the events in Gaza. The Supreme Court’s ruling gives full legitimacy to the illegal actions of the Israeli military, which has led to the killing of more than 100 people and the wounding of thousands of protesters, including women, children, journalists, and paramedics. Of those killed, 94 percent were shot by Israeli troops in the upper body.”


Adalah and Al Mezan filed their petition with the Israeli Supreme Court on 23 April 2018, demanding that it order the Israeli military to stop using snipers and live ammunition in order to disperse Palestinian protests in the Gaza Strip.


Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara argued in the petition that the Israeli military practices constitute violations of both international law as well as Israeli law:


The Israeli military's "open-fire policy against protesters in Gaza is patently illegal… This policy perceives the [Palestinian] human body as an expendable, worthless object." 


Since 30 March 2018, 115 Palestinian residents of Gaza – including 15 children – have been killed by the Israeli military. At least 86 were killed during the protests themselves, including 12 children, two journalists, and three people with disabilities.[1]


Approximately 3,000 more were wounded by live fire during this same period. Those who were killed were mostly shot in the upper part of the body, as shown in the following table:



On 17 May, Adalah and Al Mezan released a briefing paper that takes an in-depth look at the petition challenging the Israeli military’s use of lethal force against Gaza protesters, as well as the State of Israel’s response, and our critique and arguments against the State's positions.


The two organizations stressed in the petition that, contrary to the claims of the Israeli military and government, the Gaza protesters are unarmed demonstrators who never reached the point – at any stage – of imminently endangering anyone's life during demonstrations to the extent that the use of lethal force would be necessary. The protest march's general principles document, which was included in the petition, makes clear that the protests are popular, non-violent, and unarmed.


The petition emphasizes the absolute ban on opening fire on demonstrators with live ammunition and noted that the norms applicable to confronting civilian demonstrations are based in international law governing "law enforcement and order." These same norms have also been adopted into Israeli law, including via the Or Commission Report published in 2003.


"These universal norms apply equally and without discrimination to citizens and non-citizens alike, regardless of the content of the protest, their slogans, their location, their organizational affiliation, and the ethnic and national affiliation of the participants."


Nevertheless, the petition stresses, the Israeli military employed social media channels in advance of the protests to explicitly threaten Gaza residents that it would "fire live ammunition with a premeditated intent to kill or wound participants in an effort to deter future political protest."


The petition included 12 video clips documenting Israeli soldiers shooting unarmed protesters – including women and children – who did not endanger any lives.



Also included in the petition was testimony from wounded survivors hit by live ammunition during the protests.


"Testimony and video documentation reveals a chilling picture of live ammunition fired routinely and in large quantities at protesters who posed no threat or danger. Videos and first-person testimonies also reveal a horrifying trend of shooting at specific demonstrators in order to kill or harm them."


Adalah Attorney Bishara contended in the petition:


"This policy violates the most important of constitutional rights: the right to life and bodily integrity. It does not meet the test of immediate necessity." Even in such a situation of immediate necessity, the military must initially employ non-violent means. "The shootings are carried out in order to deter and frighten. The testimonies and video clips clearly show that the shooting of live fire at the demonstrators was carried out in order to harm life or bodily integrity.”


CLICK HERE to read the briefing paper [English]

CLICK HERE to read the Supreme Court’s decision [Hebrew]

CLICK HERE to read the petition [Hebrew]


[1] According to Al Mezan’s documentation. As the verification and cross checks of other cases continue, these figures are subject to changes. The number of people killed in protests represents the minimum and could increase as verification progresses.