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B`Tselem urges soldiers to refuse to shoot protestors in Gaza
B`Tselem urges soldiers to refuse to shoot protestors in Gaza: Shooting
unarmed protestors is illegal, and a command to do so is a grossly illegal

Tomorrow (Thursday) B`Tselem will launch a campaign entitled Sorry, Sir, I
can`t shoot. The campaign will include newspaper advertisements clarifying
to soldiers that they must refuse to open fire on unarmed demonstrators. The
organization is taking this unusual step following last Fridays events,
when soldiers used live fire against unarmed demonstrators. Of at least 17
Palestinians killed that day, 12 were killed at the protests. Hundreds more
were injured by live gunfire.

The military is preparing for the demonstrations, but instead of attempting
to reduce the number of those killed or injured, official sources have
announced in advance that soldiers will use live fire against demonstrators
even if they are hundreds of meters from the fence. B`Tselem warned of the
expected outcome of this policy and now, ahead of the expected
demonstrations this Friday, it is again clarifying that shooting unarmed
demonstrators is illegal and that orders to shoot in this manner are
manifestly illegal.

The responsibility for issuing these unlawful orders and for their lethal
consequences rests with the policy makers and above all with Israels
prime minister, defense minister, and the chief of staff. They are also the
ones who bear the obligation to change these regulations immediately, before
this Fridays planned protests, in order to forestall any further
casualties. That said, it is also a criminal offense to obey patently
illegal orders. Therefore, as long as soldiers in the field continue to
receive orders to use live fire against unarmed civilians, they are duty-
bound to refuse to comply.

B`Tselem wishes to emphasize that the illegality of such orders is not a
question of form, nor is it imperceptible, or partially imperceptible. On
the contrary, it is a case of unmistakable illegality patently evident in
the order itself, it is a command that bears a clearly criminal nature or
that the actions it orders are of a clearly criminal nature. It is an
illegality that pains the eye and outrages the heart, if the eye be not
blind and the heart be not callous or corrupt.

Contrary to the impression given by senior military officers and government
ministers, the military is not permitted to act as it sees fit, nor can
Israel determine on its own what is permissible and what is not when dealing
with demonstrators. Like all other countries, Israels actions are subject
to the provisions of international law and the restrictions they impose on
the use of weapons, and specifically the use of live fire. The provisions
limit its use to instances involving tangible and immediate mortal danger,
and only in the absence of any other alternative. Israel cannot simply
decide that it is not bound by these rules.

The use of live ammunition blatantly unlawful in the case of soldiers firing
from a great distance at demonstrators located on the other side of the
fence that separates Israel from the Gaza Strip. In addition, it is
impermissible to order soldiers to fire live ammunition at individuals for
approaching the fence, damaging it, or attempting to cross it. Obviously,
the military is allowed to prevent such actions, and even to detain
individuals attempting to carry them out, but firing live ammunition solely
on these grounds is absolutely prohibited.
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