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Coveney calls for Israeli restraint after 16 Palestinians killed in clashes

Thousands of Gazans marched near the Israel border yesterday where Palestinian officials state Israeli soldiers opened fire.

A wounded Palestinian is evacuated during clashes with Israeli troops near the Gaza-Israel border.
A wounded Palestinian is evacuated during clashes with Israeli troops near the Gaza-Israel border.
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Updated 6pm

TÁNAISTE SIMON COVENEY has called on Israel to restrain from violence after 16 Palestinian people were killed in clashes with soldiers yesterday.

Coveney said he called on all involved, “especially the Israeli forces, to show the utmost restraint”.

The UN Security Council has also demanded an independent investigation into the incident.

In a statement this evening, Coveney said: “I also support the call from the UN Secretary General for an independent and transparent investigation into these incidents.

“These events highlight the urgent need for a credible, internationally-led peace process that can address the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the pathway to two states, Israel and Palestine, living together in peace and security. Ireland and the EU are ready to play a role in developing that process, together with the US and others, and planning and investing for that brighter future.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an “independent and transparent investigation” and reaffirmed “the readiness” of the world body to revitalise peace efforts, a spokesperson said.

Kuwait requested the meeting to discuss the unraveling situation in Gaza, where Palestinians said Israeli fire killed 16 people in the conflict’s deadliest single day since the 2014 Gaza war.

“There is fear that the situation might deteriorate in the coming days,” said assistant UN secretary general for political affairs, Taye-Brook Zerihoun, urging maximum restraint.

‘Expressions of regret’ 

Britain and the United States expressed regret that the timing of the meeting — the first night of Passover — meant Israeli officials could not attend. Leading ambassadors sent deputies in their place.

“It’s vital that this Council be balanced in its approach,” a US diplomat told the meeting. “We should have found an arrangement for all parties to participate tonight,” he added.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of life today,” the diplomat added. “Bad actors who use protests as a cover to incite violence endanger innocent lives,” he added.

“The risk of escalation is very real,” the French representative said. “There is the possibility of a new conflict in the Gaza Strip.”

In a written statement before the meeting, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, blamed Hamas for the violence.

“While Jews around the world gathered with their family at the Seder table to celebrate the Passover holiday, the Palestinians sunk to a new deceitful low so that they could use the UN to spread lies about Israel,” Danon later said.

MIDEAST-NAHAL OZ-GAZA STRIP-ISRAEL-BARRIER-CLASHES Israeli soldiers take position along the barrier between Gaza Strip and Israel. Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

“This shameful exploitation of our holiday will not succeed in stopping us from speaking the truth about the Hamas terror-gatherings that aim to destabilize the region,” he concluded.

The violence broke out as tens of thousands of Gazans marched near the Israeli border to demand the right of return for Palestinian refugees who fled or were expelled since the creation of Israel.

Tear gas and live fire 

Israeli troops used tear gas and live fire to force back Palestinians who approached the heavily fortified border fence.

Israeli tank fire and an air strike also targeted three Hamas sites in the Gaza Strip after what the military said was an attempted shooting attack against soldiers along the border that caused no injuries.

The health ministry in Gaza said 16 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces and more than 1,400 were injured, including 758 by live fire, with the remainder hurt by rubber bullets and tear gas.

Palestinians accused Israel of using disproportionate force. The Israeli military said the protests were used as cover by militants to either break through the border or carry out attacks.

People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd Barrett has called on the Irish government and EU to act urgently to impose sanctions on Israel following yesterday’s events.

Boyd Barrett aid any failure by the Irish government and EU leaders to immediately sanction Israel for the killing of unarmed peaceful protesters exposes “shocking hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy, given the expulsion of Russian diplomats this week for alleged involvement in the Salisbury atrocity”.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald has called on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to move to recognise the State of Palestine and to expel the Israeli ambassador.

© AFP 2018 with reporting by Christina Finn 

Read: 12 dead after clashes erupt as thousands of Gazans march near Israel border>

Read: UK and US soldiers killed in Syria bomb blast>

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