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Israel says it only shot at protesters charging Gaza border as it rejects call for inquiry

The Israeli military has identified and named ten of the dead as militants from Hamas and other groups.

Relatives of Palestinian Ibrahim Abu Shaar, who was killed along Israel border with Gaza, mourn during his funeral in Rafah town, in the southern Gaza Strip.
Relatives of Palestinian Ibrahim Abu Shaar, who was killed along Israel border with Gaza, mourn during his funeral in Rafah town, in the southern Gaza Strip.
Image: Awakening via Getty

ISRAEL’S DEFENCE MINISTER has said troops acted appropriately by only firing on Palestinian protesters who charged toward Gaza’s border with Israel.

Avigdor Lieberman said today that those who protested peacefully were not harmed, and he rejected accusations of excessive use of force in the mass protests Friday in which 15 Palestinians were killed. It was the area’s deadliest violence in four years.

Gaza’s ruling militant Hamas group has touted the protests as the launch of a six-week campaign against the territory’s decade-old blockade.

Israel says thousands of Palestinians approached the border, with hundreds engaged in acts of violence ranging from rock-throwing to hurling firebombs to opening fire at Israeli troops guarding the border.

The Israeli military has identified and named ten of the dead as militants from Hamas and other groups.

The armed wing of Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip, said five of those killed were its members who were participating “in popular events side-by-side with their people”.

The Israeli army said in a statement that 10 of the dead had “documented terror backgrounds” in Hamas and other groups and were killed “whilst carrying out acts of terror”.

In addition to the 16 Palestinians killed, more than 1,400 were wounded on Friday, 758 of them by live fire, with the remainder hurt by rubber bullets and tear gas inhalation, according to the health ministry in Gaza.

The Israeli military says its forces opened fire only when necessary against those throwing stones and firebombs or rolling tyres at soldiers.

It said there were attempts to damage the fence and break through into Israel, as well as an attempted gun attack against troops.

No casualties were reported among Israelis.

Palestinians accused Israel of using disproportionate force, saying its soldiers opened fire on protesters who did not pose a threat, while human rights groups questioned Israel’s use of live fire.

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman issued a scornful rejection of demands for a probe.

“I do not understand the chorus of hypocrites who want a commission of inquiry,” he posted in Hebrew on his Twitter account.

“They got confused and thought Hamas organised a Woodstock Festival yesterday and that we should give them flowers.”

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas declared Saturday a day of national mourning and in a speech said he held Israel fully responsible for the deaths.

© AFP 2018

Read: Coveney calls for Israeli restraint after 16 Palestinians killed in clashes >

Read: Two Palestinian teenagers killed by Israeli fire, medics say >

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