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EU urges independent probe into Gaza deaths

AFP , Saturday 31 Mar 2018
Gaza
Palestinians react after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli troops during clashes 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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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, which also left hundreds wounded.

"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.

Friday's major protest -- the conflict's worst single day of violence since the 2014 Israeli offensive on Gaza-- saw demonstrators including women and children gather at multiple sites throughout the blockaded territory, which is flanked by Israel along its eastern and northern borders.

Smaller numbers approached within a few hundred metres (yards) of the heavily fortified border fence, with Israeli troops using tear gas and live fire to force them back.

The health ministry in Gaza said 16 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces.

More than 1,400 were injured, including 758 by live fire, with the remainder hurt by rubber bullets and tear gas inhalation, it said.

Palestinians accused Israel of using disproportionate force, as did Turkey. The Israeli military says it opened fire only when necessary against those throwing stones and firebombs or rolling tyres at soldiers.

The EU call for a probe echoed UN chief Antonio Guterres who also called for an "independent and transparent investigation."

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

The EU is the biggest donor to the Palestinians and has spoken out against US President Donald Trump's Jerusalem decision.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online. 

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