The past two weeks have been some of the deadliest since the beginning of the escalations in October 2015. In continuing its shoot to kill policy, Israel shot dead 6 Palestinians in less than 10 days, including 3 children. Excessive, lethal force was used in each incident.
On Friday 9 September, Abed Al-Rahman Al-Dabbagh, 16, from Al-Breij refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, was demonstrating with a group of youth near the buffer zone when what appeared to be a flare bomb struck the young man, killing him instantly.
Every Friday since the beginning of the escalations in October last year, young people in Gaza protest near the buffer zone after prayer. The demonstrators typically approach the buffer zone by a distance of 4-5 meters, throw stones at the soldiers who are inside the buffer zone, and then rapidly recede after being fired at with tear gas and live ammunition. This Friday about 60-70 participants demonstrated near the Abu-Mteibek post of the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) to the east of Al-Breij refugee camp. None of the demonstrators were armed.
The demonstration started at 2:00 pm and lasted into the evening. By around 7 pm, participants had moved back and stood approximately 10-15 meters away from the buffer zone. Abed Al-Rahman was standing among them, and had asked one of his friends to take a picture of him. A few minutes later, the demonstrators heard the sound of an explosion; a soldier had fired the flare bomb directly towards the demonstrators. Abed Al-Rahman was then seen lying on the ground, with his head on fire. His shocked friends ran to help him, but the Israeli soldiers pointed their weapons at them, and stated “whoever will dare and try to approach will suffer the same fate as him” (Al-Haq affidavit 584/2016). Abed Al-Rahman remained on the ground for about two minutes; after the fire extinguished, the soldiers allowed two young men to carry him to the Red Crescent ambulance. However, Abed Al-Rahman had already passed away. Since October 2015, Abed Al-Rahman and 21 other Palestinians died while demonstrating near the buffer zone in the Gaza Strip.
The killing of Abed Al-Rahman and the five others during the last two weeks are the result of Israel’s excessive use of force in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and may amount to unlawful killings, constituting a flagrant violation of the right to life.
In the case above, Abed Al-Rahman was posing for a picture and the demonstration had subsided when he was struck. As shown by this incident and countless others, Israel systematically and aggressively represses the non-violent protests of the Palestinian people. Whether it is in the Gaza Strip or in the West Bank, participating in peaceful demonstrations against the unlawful, unjust, and discriminatory practices of the Israeli Forces in the OPT can cost you your life. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognizes the right to peaceful assembly, and prohibits any restrictions imposed to the full enjoyment of this right unless necessary to protect national security public safety, public order (ordre public), or public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others in a democratic society. The Convention on the Rights of the Child also affirms in Article 15 the right of children to freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly.
It is extremely important here to clarify that, an assembly should still be considered “peaceful” even though some of the participants did not refrain from using violence. Therefore “an individual does not cease to enjoy the right to peaceful assembly as a result of sporadic violence or other punishable acts committed by others in the course of the demonstration, if the individual in question remains peaceful in his or her own intentions or behavior.
During protests in the OPT, Israel should be guided by the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (Basic Principles) and the United Nations Code of Conduct on the use of force and firearms by Law Enforcement Officials 1979 (Code of Conduct). Article 1 of the Code of Conduct notes that “In countries where police powers are exercised by military authorities […] the definition of law enforcement officials shall be regarded as including officers of such services.” Both the Basic Principles and the Code of Conduct affirm that recourse to firearms may take place only when all other non-violent means has been used and proven to be ineffective; damage and injury caused must be minimized and human life must be respected. Lethal force must be consistent with the principles of necessity and proportionality.
In this context, Al-Haq notes Israel’s failure to launch serious, transparent and effective investigations into the majority of unlawful killings that have occurred over the past year. Given the state of impunity, Al-Haq calls on the international community to work to hold these and other Israeli violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law accountable.
Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly. Second edition. Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE), Warsaw/Strasbourg 2010 p. 33
 Ziliberberg v. Moldova (Application no. 61821/00, admissibility decision of 4 May 2004; judgment of 1 February 2005)