Israeli killings of Gaza ship activists must be investigated
Amnesty International has called for Israel to launch an immediate, credible and independent investigation into the killing by its armed forces of at least 10 activists on boats protesting the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip. “Israeli forces appear clearly to have used excessive force,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa. "Israel says its forces acted in self-defence, alleging that they were attacked by protestors, but it begs credibility that the level of lethal force used by Israeli troops could have been justified. It appears to have been out of all proportion to any threat posed.”As a first step, Amnesty International has called on the Israeli authorities to make public immediately the rules of engagement issued to the troops who carried out this lethal attack.“The activists on the ships made it clear that their primary purpose was to protest against the continuing Israeli blockade, which constitutes a form of collective punishment and so a breach of international law,” said Malcolm Smart.For nearly three years, Israel, which is the occupying power in the Gaza Strip, has implemented a policy of banning all movement of goods and people, except for the most basic humanitarian necessities, which are imported by international aid agencies. Only a fraction of patients in need of treatment outside Gaza are allowed out, and dozens have died waiting for Israeli permission to travel.“The blockade does not target armed groups but rather punishes Gaza’s entire population by restricting the entry of food, medical supplies, educational equipment and building materials,” said Malcolm Smart.“Unsurprisingly, its impact falls most heavily on those most vulnerable among Gaza ’s 1.5 million people: children, the elderly and the sick. The blockade constitutes collective punishment under international law and must be lifted immediately.”Israel has a duty under international law to ensure the welfare of Gaza ’s inhabitants, including their rights to health, education, food and adequate housing.