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Israeli minister rejects calls for investigation into Gaza killings, applauds army instead

April 2, 2018 2:49 P.M. (Updated: April 4, 2018 4:26 P.M.)
Avigdor Lieberman (File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israel’s Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman rejected calls by the United Nations (UN) and European Union (EU) calling for an investigation into the Israeli army’s violent suppression of protests in Gaza, that left 15 protesters dead on Friday.

Over the weekend, the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, and Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, called for independent inquiries into the bloodshed.

An estimated 17,000 Palestinians had taken to the Israeli border on the 42nd anniversary of Land Day, and began the weeks-long “Great March of Return.”

In addition to the 15 protesters killed, a reported 750 wounded people were wounded by live fire, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

Additionally, a Palestinian farmer was shot and killed near the border on Friday around dawn, and on Monday, a 29-year-old Palestinian who was injured on Friday succumbed to his wounds.

On Sunday, Lieberman told Israel’s public radio that the government would not be carrying out any inquiry into the casualties, saying “from the standpoint of the [Israeli Defence Force] soldiers, they did what had to be done.”

Lieberman added that he thinks “all of our troops deserve a commendation.”

Israel has repeatedly perpetuated the narrative that the massive demonstrations -- which were organized by grassroots organizations and local activists as a nonviolent protest -- were organized by the Hamas movement, and that the protests were being used as to “camouflage terror.”

The UN call for the investigation into the killings came after the US blocked a UN Security Council (UNSC) statement on Saturday condemning Israel's use of force against civilian protesters at the Gaza border, which rights groups have deemed criminal and illegal.

Israeli forces have long been criticized for their use of excessive force against Palestinians, and what rights groups have termed their policy of “extrajudicial execution” in instances where Palestinians who did not pose a direct threat to the lives of soldiers could have been detained or subdued in a non-lethal manner.

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