UN chief calls for independent investigation after 16 Palestinian…
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Friday for an independent investigation into deadly clashes in Gaza between Palestinians and Israeli troops, while Security Council members urged restraint on both sides.
The council didn’t decide on any action or joint message after an emergency meeting. Kuwait convened it hours after the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 cross-border war between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules the coastal strip.
At least 15 Palestinian protesters were killed and more than 750 injured in clashes with Israeli forces on the Gaza border.
Thousands of Palestinians marched towards the Israeli fence around Gaza as part of large-scale demonstrations supported by Hamas, the militant Islamist group that controls the enclave.
Israel’s military said that some of the demonstrators turned violent and hurled firebombs and burning tyres at Israeli troops on the other side of the fence. Soldiers fired live ammunition as well rubber bullets and lashes of tear gas dropped by drones.
Mr Guterres wanted “an independent and transparent investigation” into the violence, spokesman Farhan Haq said.
Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour said he was disappointed the Security Council didn’t coalesce to condemn what he called a “heinous massacre” of peaceful demonstrators, or to support his call to provide protection for Palestinian civilians.
“We expect the Security Council to shoulder its responsibility” and “defuse this volatile situation, which clearly constitutes a threat to international peace and security,” Mansour said.
Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon said “the international community must not be deceived” by what he termed “a well-organised and violent terror-gathering” under the banner of a peaceful march.
“The Palestinians sunk to a new deceitful low so that they could use the UN to spread lies about Israel” while its representatives weren’t there because of the Passover holiday, Danon said in a statement.
The violence comes at the start of a tense period which will culminate in the opening of the controversial US embassy in Jerusalem in May and the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians call “The Nakba” – the mass displacement of Arabs during the 1948 war with Israel.
Friday’s demonstrations were billed as the start of the “Great March of Return”, in which Palestinian refugees will demand to be able to return to their 1948 homes in what is today Israel.
Palestinians have erected camp sites of tents at five locations along the Gaza border and plan to move the tents closer and closer to the border as the May 15 Nakba anniversary nears.
“At the peak of the attack on the Palestinian cause – by Trump’s move on Jerusalem – the Palestinians reiterate that they are sticking to their land,” said Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ political leader.
The group said the people killed “sacrificed their souls for the sake of the great revolution which precedes the great return”.
Israel said the marches were “a dangerous, premeditated provocation meant to fan the flames of conflict and increase tension”.
“The Hamas terror organisation cynically uses women and children, sending them to the security fence and endangering their lives,” the Israeli military said.
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.
Turkey accused Israel of using “disproportionate force” in confronting the protesters.
The demonstrations were largely ignored by the leadership of the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank, who have been locked in a decade-long fierce rivalry with Hamas for leadership of the Palestinian movement.
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a Twitter post directed to Gazans in both Hebrew and Arabic that “Hamas’s leadership is playing with your life.”
“Anyone who approaches the fence today will be putting themselves in danger.”
US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December has infuriated Palestinians, who claim its annexed eastern sector as the capital of their future state.
Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008.