The UN high commissioner for human rights on Friday urged Israel not to use excessive force and called for those responsible for the many Palestinian deaths in Gaza over the past month to be held accountable.
"I am extremely concerned that by the end of today — and next Friday, and the Friday after that — more unarmed Palestinians who were alive this morning will have been killed, simply because, while exercising their right to protest, they approached a fence, or otherwise attracted the attention of the soldiers on the other side," Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement on Friday.
According to the UN, 42 Palestinians have been killed and over 5,500 injured – 1,739 by live ammunition fired by the Israeli army – along the fence with Gaza over the past four weeks.
"Israel’s failure to consistently prosecute violations committed by members of its security forces encourages them to use deadly force against their fellow unarmed human beings, even when they present no threat," Al Hussein added.
Noting that 34 of the 42 killed in last four weeks were taking part in demonstrations as part of the “Great March of Return,” Al Hussein said: "Most of them appear to have been unarmed or not presenting an imminent threat to the [Israeli army] at the time of their killing or injury. No Israeli casualties have been reported."
"Every week, we witness instances of use of lethal force against unarmed demonstrators,” said Hussein, adding: "Warnings by the United Nations and others have seemingly gone unheeded, as the approach of the security forces from week to week does not seem to have changed."
"In the context of an occupation such as Gaza, killings resulting from the unlawful use of force may also constitute willful killings which are a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention," he said.
He said Israel has used excessive force against Palestinian demonstrators "not once, not twice, but repeatedly.”
"I am doubly concerned by reports of unusually severe injuries resulting from the use of live ammunition. Furthermore, many of those seeking treatment outside of Gaza have been refused permits by Israel to leave, which has increased the suffering," he said.
Decrying the impact on children, he said: "Since 30 March 2018, four children have been shot dead by Israeli forces, three of them by a bullet to the head or neck. A further 233 children have been injured by live ammunition, with some sustaining injuries that will result in lifelong disabilities, including through the amputation of limbs."
"It is difficult to see how children, even those throwing stones, can present a threat of imminent death or serious injury to heavily protected security force personnel," he said.