Israeli troops shoot 17 Palestinians during protests

GAZA CITY: Israeli troops on Friday shot and wounded 17 Palestinians during a protest on the Gaza-Israel border, where rallies have been held for nearly a year, the enclave’s Health Ministry said.

A ministry statement reported “17 injuries by the Israeli occupation forces with live ammunition,” without giving details on the condition of those shot.

It said that three paramedics and one journalist were hurt by tear gas grenades. The Israeli army told AFP that troops used live fire “according to the rules of engagement” with violent demonstrators.

“There are close to 8,000 rioters who are throwing stones, who are burning tires and throwing explosive devices and grenades at troops and at the (border) fence,” a spokeswoman said.

“In response we are using riot dispersal means and also firing, according to the rules of engagement of course,” she said.

The conclusions of a UN probe published on Thursday said Israeli forces responding to protests on the Gaza border had committed “violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.”

“Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity,” said the report, by a commission of inquiry set up by the UN Human Rights Council. Protests and clashes began along the Gaza border on March 30 last year.

Demonstrators have been calling for Palestinian refugees to be allowed to return to their former homes now inside Israel, which Israeli officials say is akin to calling for their country’s destruction.

Israel accuses Gaza’s rulers Hamas of using the protests as cover for infiltrations and attacks, while rights groups and Palestinians say protesters posing little threat have been shot by Israeli snipers.

At least 251 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since March 2018, the majority shot during weekly border protests and others hit by tank fire or air strikes in response to violence from Gaza.

Two Israeli soldiers have been killed over the same period.

Israeli leaders strongly condemned the findings of the UN inquiry, which investigated possible violations from the start of the protests last March through to Dec. 31.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel “rejects outright the report.”

Foreign Minister Israel Katz called it “hostile, deceitful and biased” and insisted that “no institution can negate Israel’s right to self-defense.”

Israel and Hamas, which has controlled the blockaded Gaza Strip for over a decade, have fought three wars since 2008.

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