Israel, Palestinians Debate Use Of Force Over Deadly Friday Demonstrations

Mar 31, 2018
Originally published on March 31, 2018 4:32 pm

On Friday, Palestinians in Gaza held their biggest demonstration against Israel in years.

On Saturday, a war of incrimination erupted about what exactly had happened.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians rallied at the Gaza border, demanding to return to lands in what is today Israel. In clashes, 15 demonstrators were killed by Israeli fire, and one was killed by tank fire before demonstrations began when Israel said he approached the border fence.

The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza said 1,416 Palestinians were wounded during the demonstrations, including 758 hit by live Israeli fire. "The vast majority were shot in the upper part of the body. This proves the Israeli will to kill as many Palestinians as possible," said Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qedra.

Israeli military spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said claims of hundreds of injuries was a "complete lie." In a phone call to reporters, he said only "tens" of Palestinians were wounded by live fire, and that most others suffered injuries from tear gas inhalation.

Manelis said those killed were individuals known to have ties to Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza, and were involved in direct attempts to harm soldiers or to damage the Israeli border fence, like opening fire toward troops and attempts to cut through the fence and light it on fire with burning tires or firebombs.

"I don't know why people call this a protest. It's terror," he said. Hamas said five of its militants had been killed.

Some videos appeared to show Palestinians shot by Israeli troops unprovoked.

In one video, a group of Palestinians gathered for Muslim prayers next to the Israeli border, bowing down on the ground. One man rose, then hobbled, apparently shot, and Palestinians carried him away.

In another video, a Palestinian ran away from the border clutching a black tire when he was apparently shot. Palestinians identified him as Abd el-Fattah Abd el-Nabi, 18, and said he died as a result of the shooting. The video does not show what he did before running away.

The Israeli army said in a statement that some videos "depict parts of incidents while others are edited or completely fabricated" and that the army fired "only when necessary and avoiding civilians."

"Don't take Hamas's propaganda as fact," the army statement said.

Later, Israel's army released the names of 10 Palestinians killed it said were affiliated with militant groups.

It said el-Nabi - who appeared in the video - was an "active operative" of Hamas' militant wing.

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