Palestine:Israeli troops have shot dead three protesters along the Gaza border, hours after the United Nations human rights chief criticized Israel for using “excessive force” against demonstrators.
Soldiers have killed 41 Palestinians and wounded more than 5,000 others since Gaza residents began staging protests along the border fence on 30 March to demand the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
The troops were holed up behind fortifications on their side of the 40km (25 mile) border fence and fired live ammunition and teargas at protesters at five locations on the Gazan side.
Gaza medical officials said two protesters who were struck by bullets were in critical condition in hospital and 600 others were wounded.
The Israeli military said 10,000 Gazans were participating in what it described as “riots” and some had tried to breach the border into Israel. It said troops “had operated in accordance with the rules of engagement” to stop people crossing the border.
The Gaza health ministry said 200 people were wounded by gunfire, including a Palestinian journalist who was hit in the foot by a bullet. Dozens more, including four medics, were treated for gas inhalation as Israeli forces showered the area with teargas canisters from behind their fortifications in Israel.
Protesters hurled stones, rolled burning tyres toward the fence and attached cans of burning petrol to kites and flew them into Israeli territory. Others cleared away barbed wire coils that Israeli troops had placed in Gazan territory overnight in a bid to create a buffer zone.
The UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, called the loss of life deplorable and said a “staggering number” of injuries had been caused by live ammunition. Israel’s foreign ministry had no immediate comment.
Israel’s UN envoy, Danny Danon, told the security council on Thursday that Hamas in Gaza was responsible for Palestinian casualties and that it was using innocent Palestinian women and children as human shields. “The terrorists are hiding while allowing, even hoping, for their people to die,” he said. “This is evil in its purest form.”
Hamas official Mushir al-Masri said: “Danon’s comments are an attempt to escape responsibility and to cover up for the execution of unarmed children and people by occupation soldiers.”
Named the Great March of Return, the protest action revives a longstanding demand for the right of return of Palestinian refugees to towns and villages which their families fled from, or were driven out of, when the state of Israel was created in 1948. Israel refuses any right of return, fearing that the country would lose its Jewish majority.