Three years after the Great March of Return protests near the fence separating Israel from Gaza, and as the ICC investigation looms in the background – what has happened with the military’s inquiries into the deadly events in which hundreds were killed?

Three years have passed since the Great March of Return protests near the fence separating Gaza and Israel. In the violent incidents that occurred during these protests, hundreds of Gaza residents were killed, and thousands were injured, as the Israeli military responded with rules of engagement that permitted the use of potentially lethal force, including firing live rounds at protestors identified as “primary instigators” or “primary rioters.” In certain conditions, soldiers were permitted to use live fire against protestors who did not pose a clear and immediate danger to human life. This policy showed unprecedented disregard for human life on Israel’s part and has resulted in the death and injury of protestors on a scale rarely seen even relative to the familiar standards of the Israeli occupation and the violent clashes it produces in the Occupied Territories.

Outcomes of inquiries and investigations conducted by the military as of April 2021 – Summary of figures:

  • Only one indictment has been filed;
  • The indicted soldier was convicted of minor offenses and received an extremely light sentence;
  • Inquiries into 95 fatalities (40%) were closed without an investigation;
  • An additional 140 fatalities (59%) are still at some stage of review or investigation. Most of these fatalities (65% or 91) are still undergoing the FFA Mechanism’s “quick” assessment, three years after the fact.

The military’s policy with respect to GMR incidents is to investigate only cases in which Palestinian protestors were killed. Not a single case among the thousands of injuries, many of them severe, including ones that have left victims permanently paralyzed or forced to undergo amputations, has been investigated.

Most glaring of all is the fact that the civilian policy makers and senior military commanders responsible for designing the military’s open fire policy for the protests are not investigated, and the decisions they made and policies they steered are left unscrutinized.

Killing Time: The slow processing of complaints regarding Gaza Great March of Return casualties and the use of the Fact-Finding Assessment Mechanism to thwart prosecution of soldiers, 22.11.2020

Shortly after Yesh Din published this data, Yesh Din addressed US Secretary of State Blinken following his public announcement where he said he believes Israel (and the US) has mechanisms to ensure accountability in any situation where there are concerns about use of force and human rights violations.

We see fit to address Secretary of State Blinken directly, in order to bring Yesh Din’s position to his attention based on our close and long-term monitoring of Israel’s mechanisms for review and investigation. In our letter, we argue that in cases where Israelis harm Palestinians a culture of immunity and lack of responsibility prevails, and that Israel is incapable or unwilling to act firmly and uphold its legal duty to combat violence and harm to Palestinians and investigate allegations of human rights violations or war crimes.

Yesh Din included the organization’s data referring to investigations of the Great March of Return protests, as well as general data regarding law enforcement upon Israeli soldiers suspected of harming Palestinians and upon Israeli citizens suspected of harming Palestinians.