IDF orders snipers to aim for ankles of Gazan protesters

Senior officer: "Firing at the lower half of the body above the knee led to the deaths of many people."

July 25, 2019 15:42
2 minute read.
Palestinian protesters carry tires to burn them during clashes with Israeli troops at Israel-Gaza bo

Palestinian protesters carry tires to burn them during clashes with Israeli troops at Israel-Gaza border, in the southern Gaza Strip April 5, 2018. . (photo credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA / REUTERS)

Over a year after Palestinians began protesting along the Gaza border fence, the Israeli military has changed the way it trains snipers deployed to the fence, after realizing that it led to the death of numerous protesters.

A senior officer in the IDF’s Lotar counter-terrorism school told reporters that the military has begun to instruct snipers to shoot at the ankles of protesters after it was understood that “firing at the lower half of the body above the knee led to the deaths of many people, even though this was not our objective.”

Dozens of snipers are deployed along the fence during the weekly riots, and according to the senior officer, “a sniper who does not shoot precisely enough, or who has professional, behavioral or mental problems, will be removed.”

All IDF snipers spend 10 weeks at Lotar, learning how to precisely hit targets from long distances.

B’Tselem – The Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories said on Wednesday that the IDF’s decision to change the regulations “in no way suggests that the military attaches great value to human life. On the contrary, it shows that the military consciously chose not to regard those standing on the other side of the fence as humans. In its naivety, the High Court of Justice approved this practice. Both the military and the court bear the responsibility for this criminal policy.”

Thousands of Gazans protest along the security fence on a weekly basis, taking part in "Great Return March" demonstrations which began on March 30, calling for an end of the 12-year-long Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

During the violent protests, Gazans have been burning tires and hurling stones as well as grenades and other explosive devices toward IDF troops. They have also launched countless aerial incendiary devices into southern Israel, devastating thousands of hectares of land.

The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza says that close to 300 Palestinians have been killed and over 22,000 others injured since the march began.

According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there have been 29,187 Palestinians injured as of March, with 7,246 injured by live ammunition and 773 injured by rubber bullets.

Another 12,442 Palestinians were injured by gas inhalation and 8,449 by other means. OCHA documentation also found that the large majority of those injured were adult men (21,433), followed by 5,333 male youths, 1,699 women and 445 girls.

A January report by Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) stated that nearly 90% of those injured by Israeli fire suffered injuries to their lower limbs.

“MSF has provided care for about half of the wounded people after their initial treatment in local hospitals, and the wounds MSF has observed have been unusually severe,” read the report by the NGO.

The first Israeli soldier killed along the Gaza front since Operation Protective Edge in 2014 also occurred during one the weekly protest, after an IDF force responded to a violent protest by 20 Palestinian youths some 400 meters from the border fence. Staff Sgt. Aviv Levi was killed after he was shot in the chest by sniper fire.

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