HCJ 3003/18 Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights v. Chief of Staff of the Israel Defence Forces

Petition submission date: 15 April 2018

From late March to early April 2018, scores of Palestinian demonstrators were killed by Israeli sniper fire and hundreds others injured by live fire in demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel border. On 15 April, Yesh Din urgently petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) together with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement and HaMoked – Center for the Defence of the Individual demanding that the Court order the military to revoke the rules of engagement that permit live fire at Palestinian protesters along the Gaza-Israel border even when they do pose a mortal threat.

According to the petition, the rules of engagement concerning Gaza permit live fire at protesters classified by the IDF as “key agitators” or “major disturbers of the peace”, even when these individuals do not pose a clear and immediate threat to human life. The orders also permit soldiers to shoot at demonstrators for merely approaching the Gaza-Israel fence (from the Gazan side).

The petitioners argued that there is no prohibition on demonstrating in Gaza and that if incidents of violence or attempts to cross the fence occur during demonstrations, they alone constitute civil disturbances of the peace. In such disturbances, the law permits live fire only in cases of immediate mortal danger. Additionally, even if the area in which the demonstrations are held is considered as a combat zone in light of the hostilities between Israel and Hamas, the demonstrations themselves are not combative and are therefore not subject to the laws of war.

The petitioners further argued that given as Israel claims it has not been occupying Gaza since the 2005 ‘disengagement’, the IDF has no legal power to declare a no-go zone within Gaza – and certainly has no authority to shoot people entering merely for entering the boundaries of the zone.

The petitioners cited the IDF code of ethics, which stipulates that soldiers will not use arms against non-combatants, and emphasized that “according to the international laws governing the use of arms, lethal force may be used only to save lives in danger, and not to safeguard any other value. Indeed, only protecting life can justify putting another life at risk.”

Petition status: Pending