Israel rejects calls for inquiry into Gaza violence

“From the standpoint of the Israeli soldiers, they did what had to be done,” Defense Minister Liberman told IDF Radio. “I think that all of our troops deserve a commendation, and there won’t be any inquiry.”

By: AP and World Israel News Staff

Israel’s defense minister on Sunday rejected international calls for an investigation into deadly violence along Gaza’s border with Israel, saying IDF troops had acted appropriately and fired only at Palestinian protesters who posed a threat and at terrorists.

Sixteen Palestinians were killed and over 700 wounded in Friday’s violence near the Israeli border, according to Palestinian health officials. Most of the wounded suffered tear gas inhalation. It was the area’s deadliest violence since Operation Protective Edge four years ago.

Human rights groups have accused the army of using excessive force, and both the United Nations secretary-general and the European Union’s foreign policy chief have urged an investigation.

In an interview with IDF Radio, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Israel would not cooperate with a UN inquiry. “From the standpoint of the Israeli soldiers, they did what had to be done,” Liberman declared. “I think that all of our troops deserve a commendation, and there won’t be any inquiry.”

Friday’s mass marches were largely led by Gaza’s ruling Hamas group and touted as the launch of a six-week-long protest campaign against Israel.

Protests have continued since Friday but at a far smaller scale. On Sunday, one person was seriously wounded by gunfire, Palestinian medical officials said.

Hamas’ ‘completely fabricated’ propaganda

Israel maintains that those killed were terrorists involved in violence and who belonged to Hamas and other terrorist factions. The IDF released the names and ages of 10 of the dead, including what it said were eight members of Hamas and two from other terror groups. It also accuses Gaza health officials of exaggerating the number of wounded.

Four of the dead were members of the Hamas military wing, Hamas said Saturday. The group said a fifth member who was not on the Health Ministry list was killed near the border, and that Israel has the body. It said another man is also missing in the border area.

The Israeli military accused Hamas of releasing videos that were either incomplete, edited or “completely fabricated.” It said troops had followed strict rules of engagement and that protesters were putting themselves in “harm’s way” by operating in a dangerous area.

In one video that went viral on social media, a young man was fatally shot from behind while running away from the border area carrying a tire. According to the IDF, the video tells only part of the story, explaining that he was a Hamas terrorist who was involved in violence just moments before he was shot.

In the interview, Liberman said those who protested peacefully were not harmed, saying claims that peaceful protesters were harmed were “lies and inventions.”

“Whoever didn’t get close to the fence was not shot,” he asserted.

The protests are to culminate in a large border march on May 15, Israel’s 70th Independence Day according to the Gregorian calendar. The date is mourned by Palestinians as their “Nakba,” or catastrophe.

Israel has warned that it will not allow the border to be breached. It also accuses Hamas of trying to use protests as a cover for planting explosives and staging attacks. On Saturday, Israel’s military said it will target terror groups inside Gaza if the border violence drags on.