The number of deaths from last week’s protest rose to 17. Israel has rejected accusations and a request for an independent inquiry. Israeli NGOs come down hard on their government. Israeli authorities blame instead Hamas for the violence to hide their responsibility in the humanitarian crisis.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – "The Israeli government wants us to think that the situation in Gaza is all the Palestinians’ fault,” said Hagit Ofran, a member of Peace Now, one of the groups that criticised Israeli authorities for acting in illegally against Palestinian protesters. Hagai El-Ad agrees. In an op-ed, the Bet'selem leader called Israel’s action “our shame”.
On 30 March, a series of rallies associated with the March of Return along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, which is set to last until 15 May, turned into the bloodiest clashes since Israel-Hamas War of 2014.
The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), which had announced harsh retaliation, opened fire and dropped tear gas on demonstrators using drones, injuring at least 750 people and killing 16, including a 16-year-old boy. A person wounded last Friday died yesterday from injuries.
Palestinians and Israeli activists accuse the Israeli army of opening fire on people even when they were far from the barrier or fleeing.
For its part, Israel said that the demonstrators were Hamas militants who had approached the fence with violent intentions. Israeli authorities also rejected calls by the United Nations and the European Union for an independent inquiry into the incident. They reiterated that they would fire on anyone who threatens their borders.
“For the Israeli government, if the demonstration in Gaza was peaceful, then people, especially in Israel, might hear their cry and think that Israel has responsibility for the situation in Gaza, Hagit Ofran told AsiaNews.
For this reason, “the government started in advance to ‘prepare’ us for the ‘violent threat’ of the demonstration. And the IDF followed the instructions . . . This way the government wants to keep the Palestinians as violent and a threat to Israel, so that people in Israel won’t think that we are to blame for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”
Contacted by AsiaNews, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel said that "Israel was wrong to treat the demonstration near the Gaza border as a military operation. The Israeli government cannot justify the fact that a legitimate protest ended with 17 protesters dead and 700 injured.”
“Blockading Gaza for over a decade, bringing it to the verge of a humanitarian crisis, and then denying its population of its right to protest is unacceptable. Gaza needs solutions rather than more violence, and Israel has once again failed to provide any solution."
Bet'selem also has harsh words for the Israeli government, calling the order to fire on Palestinians “illegal”. The NGO’s executive director Hagai El-Ad, in an op-ed on Ynews, accused the Israeli government of war crimes of which they don’t feel responsible.
“The IDF Spokesperson outdid himself, boasting in a tweet (that was later deleted): “Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.”
“Apparently our smart bullets—that struck hundreds of Palestinians—were able with surgical precision to determine that each of them presented a mortal danger and that there was no other course of action. Even those shot from a great distance. Even those shot in the back. Even those shot as they moved away from the soldiers.”
“[E]ven so, how fortunate that they are to blame for it all—they who kill themselves by themselves. After all, if—heaven forbid—it was our fault, what could we do with our shame?”
At present, the situation along the border with the Strip is calm. A few thousands of Palestinians remained in tent camps.
However, after the incident, hundreds continued to demonstrate the following days, but at a greater distance from the border.