The Socialist International strongly denounces the killing of 16 Palestinians by the Israel Defence Forces during a major protest along Gaza's border with Israel on Friday. The protests were organised as part of a 'Great Return March' initiative in Gaza. In addition to the 16 killed, more than 700 are reported injured and required hospital treatment in Gaza, many of them having been shot with live ammunition. The use of deadly force against protesters and the scale of the loss of life represent a major escalation of the conflict in the region and a damaging blow to hopes for resuming the process for peace.
The SI supports and echoes the call of the UN Secretary-General and others for an independent inquiry into these violent events and the deadly response by the Israeli military. Israeli troops have an obligation to follow human rights law and ensure that lethal force is only used as a last resort. The response so far from the Israeli ministry of defence has been to reject all calls for an independent, transparent investigation, casting serious doubt on the legality of the military response. In light of reports from human rights organisations that unarmed demonstrators were targeted by live ammunition, it is vital that Israel allow this inquiry to take place.
As the SI warned in December last year, recent setbacks to the peace process have had the effect of increasing tensions, creating the potential for the type of violence and unrest witnessed in the last days. The cycle of violence only serves to further damage any prospects for long-term peace as it undermines the moderate voices on both sides urging a return to negotiations.
The events of last Friday are proof that those in both Israel and Palestine who advocate for peace, among them SI member parties, are more than ever in need of international support and solidarity, to counteract the position of hard-line elements in both camps that conflict is inevitable. The objective of a negotiated, durable peace based on international law remains the only viable resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the commitment of the Socialist International to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine living side by side remains unchanged.