A wounded Palestinian is evacuated during clashes with Israeli troops during a protest on the Israel-Gaza border, east of Gaza City, April 1, 2018. \ MOHAMMED SALEM/ REUTERS

Despite 15 Killed on Gaza Border, Israeli Military Says Won't Change Firing Policy

Army sources did say, however, that the military will investigate claims that those killed included Gazan civilians who didn't pose a threat

The Israel Defense Forces has no intention of changing its open-fire policy in confrontations with Gazans approaching the border fence, or to reexamine the effectiveness of soldiers opening fire at demonstrators near the border. The policy will remain in place despite the killing of 15 Palestinians involved in riots there on Friday, army sources said on Sunday.

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However, the army will investigate claims that those killed included Gazan civilians who had not posed a threat, but at this point it stands by its position that 10 of those killed were terrorists, the sources said.

“We will continue to act against the demonstrators in Gaza as we acted last Friday,” an army source said. This means the army will not shift to greater use of other crowd dispersal means. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, 15 Palestinians were killed, 805 were wounded by live fire and 154 injured by rubber-tipped bullets in Friday’s clashes.

On Sunday, a Palestinian man in Khan Yunis was shot in the head by a soldier and critically wounded, and five other Palestinians were also wounded by IDF live fire, said the Palestinian Health Ministry. The army said soldiers fired at the feet of Palestinians in six incidents.

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In general, the Gazan border with Israel was quiet on Saturday and Sunday compared to Friday, with about 400 Palestinians demonstrating at four spots near the border on Sunday, Israeli military sources said.

Some organizers of the march in Gaza predicted that the clashes would subside, in part due to the Easter holiday on Sunday, but there were also calls for protest marches in the West Bank and confrontations with Israeli forces at checkpoints and other points of friction. At Al-Quds University in Abu Dis, a Palestinian was hit by live fire and five others were hurt by rubber-tipped bullets. Dozens of others suffered from tear gas inhalation.

Around 30,000 Gazans participated in Friday’s protest march near the border, which saw a number of protesters throw stones and firebombs in the direction of Israeli soldiers. However, no injuries to soldiers were reported.

The Israeli army views it as its primary mission to prevent the demonstrators from crossing over the fence into Israel. In preparing for Friday’s mass demonstration, the army anticipated the possibility that many Palestinians would be killed in the confrontation. Prior to the protests, a senior army source told Haaretz: “That is the price that we are prepared to pay to prevent a breach [of the border].”

Relatives of an 18-year old Palestinian, Abdul Fattah Abdul Nabi, who was seen in a video to have been shot in the back while running during Friday’s protest march, told the Washington Post that Abdul Nabi did not belong to an armed faction in the Gaza Strip. In a list released by the Israeli army, however, he was listed as a member of the military wing of Hamas. Army sources said the IDF has intelligence information that backs up its claim.

Abdul Nabi’s relatives told the Washington Post that he worked in his brother’s falafel shop during the week and in a kitchen on Fridays. The mourners’ tent that was set up following his death was not decorated with signs that would indicate the family’s affiliation with a particular faction in Gaza, the Post reported. Unlike others who were killed, Abdul Nabi was also not pictured in uniform.

The Trump administration, which expressed support for Israel’s actions in Gaza, came in for criticism from Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, who said the United States was scuttling any forceful international condemnation of Israel’s conduct on the Gazan border.

The United States blocked a draft statement in the UN Security Council on Saturday that called for an investigation into the clashes, diplomats told Agence France Presse. The statement, proposed by Kuwait, representative of Arab countries on the council, demanded an “independent and transparent investigation” into Friday’s violence with regard to international law.

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