To be gassed, or not to be gassed: that is the question

Julie Webb-Pullman

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It is a question that the international community must answer about Friday’s ‘March of Return’ in Palestine.

The stated intention of Israeli authorities to flagrantly breach international law by dropping tear gas from riot control drones inside Gazan territory on this event is deplorable – and preventable.

The ‘March of Return’ sit-in is an entirely non-violent peaceful event being held at several locations along the Gaza border, at a distance of 700 meters from the border fence. Thousands of women and children are participating, along with their menfolk.

Organisers have assured that there will be no weapons or guns used during this civilian protest; even stones will not be allowed to be thrown at Israeli soldiers.

Official statements reported in the Israeli and international media leave little doubt that the presence of law-abiding Palestinian women and children exercising their right to assemble in their own country will be met with a wildly disproportionate – and illegal – response from Israeli authorities.

Snipers, army battalions, and the afore-mentioned drones and tear gas have all been readied, and a practice attack using the drones was conducted by the Israeli Border Police on 09 March, 2018 at Shujeiyeh – an attack which was both indiscriminate in its effect, and conducted well inside the Gaza border in a blatant breach of Palestinian sovereignty.

Who knows what gases are being used in these drones? The effects of Israeli tear gas on Palestinians in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza strongly indicate that they have not merely been using CR, CN, CS and OC gases – what new chemical weapons are being tested on us? And now launched from drones?

Israeli authorities have widely and clearly made known their intention to repeat similar acts and more, in defiance of the prohibition by the traditional Charter system of the use of force in the sovereign territory of another, and in breach of the Geneva and Hague Conventions preventing the use of indiscriminate weapons, particularly against civilians.

These Israeli threats should be condemned by all who uphold the rule of law.

The international community is on notice, and must respond.

Their response must be immediate, and unequivocal: the use of drones to breach sovereignty in order to use indiscriminate weapons which may cause injury to civilians must be soundly, roundly and loudly rejected, and condemned by all with a genuine commitment to international law.

To do otherwise is to invite another holocaust.