200 lives and 150 legs cut off without response in Gaza | International

After more than four years of works, Israel has just completed the construction of an underground barrier along 65 kilometers of the Gaza Strip border. This invisible wall, which has cost about a billion euros and has sensors and radars to detect the infiltration of Islamist militias through tunnels, intensifies the feeling of blockade to which two million Palestinians have lived in the coastal enclave for the past about 15 years. In response to the isolation, cyclically reinforced by Egypt on the southern border, tens of thousands of young Gazans supported the weekly protests of the so-called Great March of Return between 2018 and 2019, in which more than 200 Palestinians died and another 8,000 were injured by shots from Israeli Army snipers. More than 150 suffered amputations.

Monser Nader Abali, 27, stopped studying economics at the Islamic University of Gaza on April 13, 2018, when Israeli bullets shattered his right leg, shortly after the start of the border protests. Since then he has also lost interest in life. “I got too close to the gate, about 20 meters, out of simple curiosity, along with many other protesters,” he recalls in the Shati refugee camp, turned into a maritime neighborhood of the capital of the enclave. Now she wears a prosthesis that barely allows her to walk and climb the stairs at home.

Monser Nader Abali, 27, who lost a leg in 2018 on the border of Israel, in the Shati refugee camp (Gaza), on the 13th.
Monser Nader Abali, 27, who lost a leg in 2018 on the border of Israel, in the Shati refugee camp (Gaza), on the 13th.

The Palestinian government has assigned him a disability pension of NIS 1,300 (370 euros) per month, double the rent of the apartment in which he lives with his wife, after spending a year in a wheelchair and another year with crutches “I hope that my case one day reaches The Hague so that the guilty are punished, but I do not trust Israel to assume its responsibility,” he resigned. “I asked at the hospital how much a modern artificial leg would cost to be able to go back to my old life,” he confesses. “It’s better not to know,” he says they responded.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), an NGO based in Gaza and funded by international donations, this month presented a joint investigation with the Israeli pacifist organization B’Tselem in which it blames the military justice to “cover up” the alleged war crimes committed by the troops during the Great March of Return.

“We work between three fires: that of the occupation and the blockade of Israel; that of the Palestinian Authority, in the West Bank, and that of the Islamist movement Hamas in Gaza ”, describes Rayi Surani, director of the PCHR for three decades, the difficulty of the work of an independent organization. “Our investigators and lawyers are on the ground, and where a case is presented with indications of constituting a war crime we collect all the data,” says Surani in his office in the capital of Gaza. provision of international justice.

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The Hague-based Prosecutor’s Office of the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened an investigation into Palestinian war crimes targeting both Israel and Islamist militias in Gaza in March. Israel is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the ICC in 2002. But Palestine ratified it in 2015 and recognized the court’s jurisdiction over its territory. Palestine was admitted as a “non-member observer state” by the UN General Assembly in 2012.

The official version of the Israeli Army has not changed in the last three years, as reiterated by the military spokesmen. The troops responded in a proportionate way to “neutralize the danger” posed by the wave of violent mass riots – and “terrorist actions” – organized by Hamas with the aim of launching attacks across the border. The commanders gave the order to open fire “in self-defense,” says Israel.

Above all, the Israeli Government fears that the international criminal investigation could lead to indictments against military and civil officials, as suspected of having committed war crimes or crimes against humanity in the Palestinian territories. Consequently, they can be arrested abroad on the basis of arrest warrants issued by the ICC.

“The Hague judges, however, act under the principle of complementarity. If a State carries out a complete investigation and offers reparation to the victims, international justice refrains from intervening, ”Surani points out. “But if there is no legal answer or it is proven that the Israeli jurisdiction has covered up the investigation, then it is possible to go to the ICC. Israeli and Palestinian researchers have presented facts, names and all kinds of evidence that the Israeli legal system has hidden in its investigation, “says the director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

May Abu Rowaida, 22, who lost an eye from the impact of a rubber-lined bullet in 2019 on the border of Israel, at her home in Maghazi (Gaza), on the 13th.
May Abu Rowaida, 22, who lost an eye from the impact of a rubber-lined bullet in 2019 on the border of Israel, at her home in Maghazi (Gaza), on the 13th.

“They ruined my life and my future”

May Abu Rowaida, 22, was hit by a rubber-lined bullet in her right eye on December 6, 2019, in Al Biureji, on the central border of the Gaza Strip. The young woman waved a Palestinian flag in the final phase of the Great March of Return protests, at a time when there were hardly any incidents. She has interrupted her studies as a health secretariat and has hardly gone out with her friends again in the Maghazi refugee camp, in the center of the Strip. Suleiman Abu Rowaida, a 54-year-old local official, shakes his head as he listens to the bitter words of his daughter. “They practiced marksmanship with my eye. I was not posing any danger ”, she recounts a year after receiving an eye prosthesis. They ruined my life and my future. I feel disfigured, ”laments the young woman, who now receives a monthly pension of NIS 600.

May Abu Rowaida went to the Israeli military offices at the Erez border crossing to file a complaint. “No one has called me to investigate my case in Israel,” he alleges. “But I also have no hope that he will be able to achieve compensation through international justice. I lost my eye for no reason, just for carrying a Palestinian flag. “

“We have tried to exhaust all instances in Israel, although its military jurisdiction does not apply international law, it only investigates whether the events have occurred in accordance with military provisions,” clarifies Rayi Surani, a Palestinian lawyer specialized in the defense of human rights. . “Israel does not try to assess whether there have been deaths or injuries and for what causes,” he concludes, “but whether there have been violations of Army rules, such as looting or robbery.” He believes that deep down this whole process is just a “smokescreen”.

The Israeli investigations have only affected low-ranking military personnel. They have focused on 143 cases resulting in death and have not addressed the thousands of cases involving injuries and amputees. About a hundred complaints have been filed without opening proceedings. “Israel has dedicated itself to covering up and protecting the political and military leaders who approved the practice of fire at will,” concludes the joint report by the PCHR and B’Tselem. “Stating that an investigation is underway (to elude the ICC) is not enough. There must be an effective investigation directed at the higher command. Israel does not meet these requirements ”, emphasizes the joint report of NGOs from Palestine and Israel.

Only one Israeli military investigation has so far led to a conviction. This is the case of the Palestinian boy Othman Heles, shot dead on the Karni border, near the Gazati capital, on July 13, 2018. When THE COUNTRY visited him in 2019 in Ziyahia, a peripheral neighborhood of Gaza, Rami Heles, The father of the deceased, had recently received the news of the sentence to 30 days of work for the community imposed on an Israeli sniper for having shot at Othman. “It was a tragic child, she climbed over the fence. But at least the Israelis could have apologized if they believe that everything was due to a mistake, “he complained at the time of the slight sentence imposed on a soldier, who was not identified by the Army after the plea agreement reached with the Prosecutor’s office

Yasir Barbargh points to a poster with a photo of his son Mohamed, who lost a leg in protests on the Israeli border in 2018, at his home in Khan Younis (Gaza) on the 13th.
Yasir Barbargh points to a poster with a photo of his son Mohamed, who lost a leg in protests on the Israeli border in 2018, at his home in Khan Younis (Gaza) on the 13th.JCS

Playing soccer after losing a leg

On October 25, 2018, at the age of 15, Mohamed Barbagh was a soccer fanatic. Three years later, he had to learn to play without his right leg. Now he is in Egypt, in a rehabilitation center for amputees accompanied by his mother. His father, Yasir Barbagh, 48, poses next to a poster of the boy, celebrated as a “hero” by Gaza’s political organizations, in the living room of his home on the outskirts of Khan Younis (southern Gaza Strip). “It was the first time that I went to the marches. He was with his friends, along with a crowd, “he says. Like more than half of Gazans, they are unemployed. Until 2006, when the border was closed, he was one of the tens of thousands of seasonal workers who worked every day in agriculture or construction in Israel.

On a typical Friday of protests along the Great Return March, such as those witnessed by this correspondent, thousands of families chanted nationalist chants about two kilometers from the fence, while hundreds of young people threw stones at the soldiers at the fence , amidst smoke from burned tires and tear gas fired from drones. “A relative telephoned me from Hoshma, on the same border, with this message: ‘Your son has been shot and is on his way to the Jan Yunes European Hospital.’ After a seven-hour operation, he was evacuated to the Makassed Palestinian hospital in East Jerusalem (in a last attempt to save his limb). Four days later, his leg was amputated above the knee, ”says Yasir Barbagh. He claims his son was playing soccer in an area far from the border fence.

“He feels a lot of discomfort when walking with the prosthesis that has been placed on him. The one he will need costs about $ 15,000 and now he only receives aid of NIS 300 per month from the Palestinian government, ”laments the father. “The worst thing is that Mohamed is not like before. He does not want to leave the house. He has run out of illusions. That will never be returned to you in the Court of The Hague ”.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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