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Tuesday, 22 October 2019

UPDATED: Israel wounds 13 in Gaza protests Saturday after bloodiest day of Israeli killing in years

General strike honoured in occupied West Bank; limited protests in Gaza a day after Israel killed 15 unarmed Palestinians; Egypt condemns Israel use of 'excessive force'; EU, UN call for independent probe

AFP , Ahram Online , Reuters , Saturday 31 Mar 2018
Gaza
A Palestinian is evacuated during clashes with Israeli troops at the Gaza-Israel border at a protest demanding the right to return to their homeland, in the southern Gaza Strip March 31, 2018 (Photo: Reuters)
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Israeli troops fired warning shots towards Palestinian youths gathered at the Gaza-Israel border on Saturday, wounding 13 people, Palestinian health officials said.

Tension remained high in the area a day after deadly violence broke out in one of the biggest Palestinian demonstrations there in years.

An Israeli military spokesman said he was checking the details of Saturday's unrest.

Palestinians held limited protests today near the Gaza border a day after a major demonstration led to clashes that saw Israeli forces kill 15 people.

In addition to the 15 killed, more than 1,400 were wounded, 758 of them by live fire, with the remainder hurt by rubber bullets and tear gas inhalation, according to the Gazan health ministry.

No casualties were reported among Israelis.

The United Nations Security Council will meet on Friday to discuss the situation in Gaza at the request of Kuwait, diplomats told Reuters.

Protesters began returning on Saturday to a tent city erected near the border with Israel to resume the demonstration planned to last six weeks in the blockaded enclave.

Thousands were attending funerals for those killed, with mourners holding Palestinian flags and some chanting "revenge."

A general strike was being held in both the besieged Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank.

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

"The large number of martyrs and people wounded in peaceful popular demonstrations shows that the international community must intervene to provide protection to our Palestinian people," he said.

Wires
Mourning the dead in Gaza

Israel defended its soldiers' actions on Friday, when troops opened fire on Palestinians who strayed from the main tent city protest -- attended by tens of thousands -- and approached the heavily fortified fence cutting off the Gaza Strip.

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

It also said there were attempts to damage the fence and infiltrate Israel, while alleging there was an attempted shooting attack against soldiers along the border that caused no casualties.

But Palestinians accused Israel of using disproportionate force, while human rights groups questioned Israel's use of live fire.

UN chief Antonio Guterres called for an "independent and transparent investigation."

The EU's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini on Saturday called for an independent investigation into the use of live ammunition by Israel's military following clashes in Gaza that left 16 Palestinians dead.

"The EU mourns the loss of life. Our thoughts are with the families of the victims," Mogherini said in a statement a day after the clashes.

"The use of live ammunition should, in particular, be part of an independent and transparent investigation," she said.

"Freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are fundamental rights that must be respected," added Mogherini, a former Italian foreign minister who speaks on behalf of the European Union's 28 member states.

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

"The large number of martyrs and people wounded in peaceful popular demonstrations shows that the international community must intervene to provide protection to our Palestinian people," he said.

Wires
General strike in West Bank

An Israeli military spokesman said Friday's events were "not a protest demonstration" but "organised terrorist activity."

He accused Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the besieged Gaza Strip and which has fought three wars against Israel since 2008, of being behind it and threatened wider military action if it continued.

"If it continues, we shall have no choice but to respond inside the Gaza Strip against terrorist targets which we understand to be behind these events," Brigadier General Ronen Manelis told journalists.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s foreign ministry condemned on Friday night the use of "excessive violence" by Israeli occupation forces against Palestinian protesters gathered at the Gaza border with Israel on Friday to commemorate Land Day.

"Egypt fully supports the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, at the top of which is the right to establish an independent state with Eastern Jerusalem as its capital as well as their right of return," Egypt’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The six-week protest is in support of Palestinian refugees and the timetable holds significance for a range of reasons that have added to tensions.

It began on Land Day when Palestinians commemorate the killing of six unarmed Arab protesters in Israel in 1976, and as Jewish Israelis readied to observe the Passover holiday, which started at sundown on Friday.

Protests will continue until the United States opens its new Jerusalem embassy around May 14, a move that has provoked deep anger among the Palestinians, who see the city's annexed eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

May 14 will also mark 70 years since the creation of Israel, while Palestinians will commemorate what they call the Nakba, or "catastrophe" of 1948 the following day.

Nakba commemorates the more than 700,000 Palestinians who either fled or were expelled by Zioniust gangs from their homes in the war surrounding Israel's creation in 1948.

2.5 million Palestinians in Gaza have been living under a devastating 10-year old land-air-sea siege by the occupation.

US President Donald Trump has harshly criticised the Palestinians in the past, but the State Department said only that it was "deeply saddened" by the loss of life and urged steps to lower tensions.

Human Rights Watch criticised Israel's actions.

"Israeli allegations of violence by some protesters do not change the fact that using lethal force is banned by international law except to meet an imminent threat to life," the New York-based group said, calling the number of killed and wounded "shocking."

Israel had deployed troop reinforcements along the border, including more than 100 special forces snipers, saying it would prevent attempts to break through the fence.

Protests along the border are common, often culminating in young Palestinian men throwing stones at Israeli soldiers who respond with tear gas along with rubber and live bullets.

But the peaceful "March of Return" protest that began on Friday is larger scale and is intended to involve families with Palestinian women and children camping in tent cities near the border for weeks.

Tent City
Palestinians in Tents on Gaza border demanding Right of Return

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