Since late March 2018, thousands of Palestinians have participated in the weekly Great March of Return (GMR) demonstrations in the vicinity of Israel’s perimeter fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel, calling for the Palestinian right of return and the ending of the Israeli blockade. The large number of casualties among unarmed Palestinian protestors, in particular the high number injured by live ammunition in circumstances that did not appear to constitute an imminent threat of death or serious injury to Israeli soldiers behind the fence, has raised concerns about excessive use of force by Israeli forces.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a report on Palestinian injuries during the first year of the GMR, based on research which WHO conducted in collaboration with over 20 agencies. From 30 March 2018 to 30th March 2019, 277 Palestinians were killed and over 28,000 injured during the period of these protests. The report notes that the trauma stabilization points, established by WHO with the support of the Ministry of Health and Palestine Red Crescent Society, have removed a significant burden of the GMR trauma caseload from the already overwhelmed hospital network in Gaza, and that between 435 and 1,227 lives are estimated to have been saved as a result of the established trauma referral pathway.
Nevertheless, some 60 percent of the GMR injuries needed hospital treatment, including over 6,800 caused by gunshot. According to WHO, “while this would overwhelm even well-prepared emergency services in the best-equipped health systems everywhere, it is an almost insurmountable challenge for Gaza’s hospitals.”