The High Court of Justice on Thursday unanimously rejected two petitions from human rights groups against the IDF rules of engagement allowing live fire during clashes with Palestinian protesters on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
The petitioners had asked the court to give a conditional order prohibiting the army from using live fire against demonstrators who do not constitute an immediate threat to soldiers’ lives.
High Court President Esther Hayut, Deputy Chief Justice Hanan Melcer and Justice Neal Hendel ruled that Hamas and other terrorist organizations were posing a huge challenge to the security forces by deliberately mixing terrorists in with civilians, including women and children, to make it hard for the army to pick out the former.
Ahead of the hearing, human rights lawyer Michael Sfard said the IDF’s rules of engagement don’t meet international standards of law enforcement and that the laws of armed conflict don’t apply in this case. “Lethal force against unarmed civilians who do not pose danger is illegal,” he said. “This is the crux of the case.”
Israel said that the riots, encouraged by Hamas, cannot be considered simple civilian demonstrations.
The Israeli military argues that the protests are taking place in the context of a long-running armed conflict with the Hamas terror group, and that open-fire regulations are subject to the rules of armed conflict. Such rules provide greater leeway for the use of lethal force than those governing law enforcement practices.
More than 100 Palestinians have been killed since the start of “March of Return” protests along the security fence that marks the border between Israel and Gaza.
More than half were members of the Hamas terror group that rules the enclave, according to the group.
Palestinian deaths during the protests have been met with international outrage and demonstrations.
Israel says that the protests are being orchestrated by Hamas — an Islamist terror group that rules Gaza and seeks to destroy Israel — and used as cover for attempted attacks and breaches of the border fence. It says that some of those killed were planting explosives or firing on soldiers.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman responded to the ruling on Twitter, saying, “The High Court of Justice unanimously rejected the petitions of the pestering left-wing Zionist organizations against the IDF’s strong and steadfast stance against the enemy in Gaza.
“It is time for you to understand that while you are trying to strengthen our enemy, the IDF is also protecting you.”
He added that petitions such as theirs had no place in the High Court and that it was a pity that they had not been ordered to pay high costs.