The massive Great Return March at the Gaza border witnessed incidents of Israeli Defence Force (IDF) snipers shooting unarmed Palestinians. Unfortunately, these incidents are no surprise as massacring innocent Palestinians has been a regular practice as far as the IDF is concerned. From the days of the Nakba, when Palestinians were thrown out of their land and Israel was established, the death toll has seen a steady and horrifying rise.
Seventy years ago, following the establishment of Israel, the then Prime Minister David Ben Gurion is reported to have ordered the army to shoot and kill any Palestinian who dared to cross into the land they had claimed. The IDF continued with that very same policy during the Great Return March. The march marks the death of six Palestinians at the hands of Israeli forces during the general strike and protest against the Israeli annexation of land in the Galilee region in 1976.
As many as 17 unarmed Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli snipers during the recent march that began on March 30. With Palestinians continuing their 45-day protest after burying the victims, Israel’s army and its hasbara apparatus (the public diplomacy-propaganda arm) swiftly moved into action and tried to blame the dead for their death.
Several videos have surfaced, however, showing Israeli snipers - positioned behind dirt mounds on the other side of the border fence - shooting and killing the unarmed protesters. Many were shot in the back.
In one video, 19-year-old Abdel Fattah Abdel Nabi is shot in the back as he runs while holding a tyre (tyres are often burned by protesters to provide smokescreens as protection from security forces).
In another video, Tahrir Abu-Sabla, is seen with other protesters dozens of meters away from the border fence, waving his hands in the air. The next moment, a bullet from an Israeli sniper pierces his head.
Shai Eluk, a former Israeli soldier who was on duty during the Land Day protest in 2012, says, “I was on the border with Gaza six years ago. The same marchers, the same protest. Even the orders to open fire at crowds of people remained the same.”
Israel has deployed more than 100 snipers from special forces units near the Gaza border with orders to fire at any Palestinians who approach the military buffer zone.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Defence Minister has shot down the global calls for an inquiry into the killings in Gaza. It very rarely that Israeli soldiers are tried and convicted of killing Palestinians even as such incidents continue with near impunity.
According to available data, between 2003-2012, 179 cases were opened against soldiers suspected of homicide of Palestinians. Of these, only 16 led into indictments, of which only six ended in convictions related to homicide. Only one of the convicted soldiers served more than a year in prison -. Taysir Hayb, who got an 8-year jail term for killing British anti-occupation activist Thomas Hurndall.