Rights groups take aim
Fourteen-year-old Wisal Sheikh Khalil had wire cutters out and was trying to break through Gaza’s boundary fence into Israel when she was shot dead by Israeli soldiers on Tuesday, according to her younger brother, who was with her at the time.
She was one of at least 60 Palestinians whom local health officials say were killed by Israeli troops during protests this week along the fence.
Israel’s sharpshooters, looking down from their nests on mounds of earth on the other side of the fence, have been permitted to use lethal force against those “endangering” the barrier, Israeli military officials say. These officials also say Israeli soldiers have been allowed to use live ammunition to shoot “instigators” among “rioters” on the border.
In both cases, the orders are to aim for the legs, they say, though Khalil was shot in the head.
The Israeli military declines to give much more detail about its rules of engagement, saying they are classified. But human rights groups say the few details provided by the Israeli military make clear that the orders given to soldiers are illegal.
These groups accuse the Israeli military of not making enough effort to use other means of dispersing crowds.
Israeli officials say the soldiers are operating within international law against a mob led by the militant group Hamas that wants to break into Israel and carry out terrorist attacks.
About 1360 Palestinians were shot over the course of about eight hours on Tuesday, said the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza. All the dead were shot on the Palestinian side of the fence, and the border fence, though damaged, was never breached. No Israeli soldiers were reported injured.
Israel has drawn broad international criticism for allegedly using excessive force, facing questions about why protests by mostly unarmed Palestinians ended in such horrific bloodshed. Images and eyewitness accounts from the demonstrations appear at odds with Israel’s insistence that its military response has been precise, carefully calibrated and intended to kill only as a last resort.
“Cutting or attacking the fence is an offence,” said Michael Sfard, an Israeli human rights lawyer. “It has to be countered, but countered with reasonable force. There is no meter
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