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20 December 2017

Repression of Protests and Excessive Use of Force by Israeli Forces

Front Line Defenders condemns the excessive use of force and the repression of protests in occupied Palestine following the decision by the Government of the United States to move its embassy to Jerusalem. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society reported that between 7 and 17 December 2017 (following the 6 December US recognition of a “unified” Jerusalem) nine Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have been killed by the Israeli army, and 3400 have been injured. In times of political tension, human rights defenders play a critical role in documenting and reporting on rights abuses, upholding freedom of assembly and defending the rights of others. Their rights to carry out these activities must be guaranteed in all circumstances and this is made extremely difficult by the Israeli State’s use of excessive and lethal force in response to protests.

On 6 December the US administration announced a decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Currently an estimated 300,000 Palestinians live in the city, deprived of civil and political rights – Palestinians are under threat of residency revocation and home demolition, and Palestinian neighborhoods are subjected to developmental, economic and infrastructural disadvantages as a result of discriminatory laws that restrict planning and building rights.

Among those killed during protests was 29 year-old double amputee and land rights defender Ibrahim Abu Thuraya, from Al-Bureij refugee camp, Gaza, who lost his legs in an Israeli air-strike in 2008, and who was fatally shot by an Israeli soldier on 15 December 2017. Hours prior to his killing, Abu Thuraya climbed an electricity pole to raise a Palestinian flag. In Hebron, Bilal Al-Taweel, a human rights defender and journalist who was covering the protest taking place in the old city on 15 December was one of several protesters arrested. Other protesters were arrested on 14 December at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem while peacefully demonstrating against the US administration’s decision.

Medical sources, including the local Red Crescent and the Palestinian Health Ministry, have confirmed that dozens of individuals throughout the West Bank, including Qalandiya, Hebron, and Nablus have been treated in hospital after tear gas inhalation. Mass arrests have been carried out throughout the occupied West Bank, with an estimated 400 Palestinians detained since the decision was announced and subsequent protests broke out.

Front Line Defenders calls upon the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority to refrain from arbitrary arrests or excessive use of force against human rights defenders, activists, and other individuals who peacefully gather to condemn the recent decision by the Trump administration, and to further refrain from using the current escalation as a pretext to impede the legitimate work of human rights defenders and civil society groups. It reiterates the right of everyone to peacefully gather to exercise their freedom of expression and assembly, as recognised in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), articles 3 and 21, as well as the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), article 8.