Campaign urges Israel soldiers to refuse to shoot unarmed Palestinians

JERUSALEM, April 5, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – A prominent campaign by an Israeli rights group on Thursday urged soldiers to refuse to shoot at unarmed Palestinians as tensions increased ahead of new protests along the Gaza border.

The campaign by the B’Tselem NGO, which included advertisements in Israeli newspapers, led Israel’s public security minister to suggest the group should be investigated for calling for sedition.

The calls come after a mass protest along the Gaza border last Friday that led to clashes with Israeli forces, who killed 17 Palestinians. New mass protests are expected again on Friday.

B’Tselem’s campaign included advertisements saying: “Sorry Commander, I cannot shoot.”

“Soldier, rules of engagement that can cause the death of civilians who do not pose a danger to human lives are illegal,” the NGO said.

Israel has pledged to stop attempts to damage the heavily fortified fence on the Gaza border and to prevent illegal infiltrations, including with live fire if necessary.

Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman issued another warning this week, saying those who approach the fence will put “their life in danger”.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Israel’s army radio on Thursday that he had asked the attorney general to examine whether B’Tselem should be investigated for “calling for sedition.”

“Concerning rules of engagement, soldiers treat any activity putting Israel’s security in danger as terrorist acts,” he said.

Israel’s use of live fire last week has come under criticism from rights groups, while the European Union and UN chief Antonio Guterres have called for an independent investigation.

Israel has defended its soldiers’ actions, saying they opened fire only when necessary against those throwing stones and firebombs or rolling tyres at soldiers.

It said there were attempts to damage the fence and infiltrate Israel, while alleging there was also an attempted gun attack against soldiers along the border.

Israel accuses Hamas, the Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip, of using the protests as cover to carry out violence. Palestinians say protesters were fired on while posing no threat to soldiers.