Jerusalem – Israel's defense minister says troops acted appropriately by only firing on Palestinian protesters who charged toward Gaza's border with Israel. Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday 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.
Palestinian and Israeli relations intensify as Palestinians protest along Israeli security border to protest the Israeli blockade around Gaza. Conor Powell has the story. Israel warned Saturday of a stepped-up response if violent protests in Gaza continued as the head of the United Nations called for an investigation into Friday's deadly clashes in the volatile border zone. Palestinian health officials said 15 Palestinians were killed and more than 750 wounded by Israeli fire as protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers near the border fence separating Gaza and Israel. Gen. Ronen Manelis, the chief army spokesman, denied allegations of excessive use of force, saying those killed by Israeli troops were men between the ages of 18 and 30 who were involved in violence and belonged to militant factions. He alleged Gaza health officials exaggerated the number of those wounded and that several dozen at most were injured by live fire while the rest were merely shaken up by tear gas and other riot dispersal means.
GAZA CITY, GAZA STRIP – Palestinian mourners in the Gaza Strip on Saturday were burying their dead, including a journalist, after Israeli troops killed nine during the latest border clashes in a week of bloodshed. Thousands of protesters approached the border fence around Gaza for a second Friday in a row, burning tires and hurling stones at Israeli forces, who responded with tear gas and live ammunition. In addition to the nine dead, at least 491 were wounded by Israeli gunfire, the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza enclave said. Israel said there were around 20,000 protesters and that they were seeking to breach the border. Numbers were down from the previous Friday, when tens of thousands approached the border in demonstrations that saw Israeli forces kill 19 Palestinians, making it the bloodiest day in Gaza since a 2014 war.
Israel's defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, ruled out participation in any commission of inquiry, telling Army Radio on Sunday that the Israeli military "did what had to be done." He added, "I think that all of our troops deserve a medal." President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey described the harsh Israeli response as "an inhumane attack." After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel wrote on Twitter that "the most moral army in the world will not be preached to on morality by someone who for years has indiscriminately bombed a civilian population," apparently referring to Ankara's battle against the Kurds, Mr. Erdogan called the Israeli leader a "terrorist." Friday's protest was the start of a six-week campaign called the Great Return March.
JERUSALEM – Israel has beefed up forces along the volatile Gaza border ahead of planned Palestinian protests near the fence, called for by the area's militant Hamas rulers. Hamas has said that Friday's activities will be peaceful but Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, Israel's chief military spokesman, says the army is prepared for trouble. He said late on Thursday troop levels have been doubled along the border, including snipers, special forces and paramilitary border police units, which specialize in riot control. Palestinians are setting up tents along the border on Friday, the first of a series of actions planned for the coming weeks.