UN Chief Calls for Independent Investigation Into Palestinian Deaths at Gaza Border
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an independent and transparent investigation into the deaths and injuries along Gaza’s border with Israel, his spokesman said in a statement Friday.
At least 16 Palestinians were killed earlier on Friday in clashes along the Gaza-Israel border as 30,000 Gazans participated in the "March of Return," a series of mass protests slated to continue for weeks.
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Organizers of the march said they plan to return to the border fence Saturday in memory of the killed.
The UN Security Council was slated to gather for an emergency meeting after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asked the organization to provide protection for Palestinian demonstrators.
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Guterres also "appeals to those concerned to refrain from any act that could lead to further casualties and in particular any measures that could place civilians in harm’s way," said UN spokesman Farhan Haq.
A senior United Nations official told the Security Council on Friday that the situation in Gaza "might deteriorate in the coming days" and called for civilians, particularly children, not be targeted.
"Israel must uphold its responsibilities under international human rights and humanitarian law. Lethal force should only be used as a last resort with any resulting fatalities properly investigated by the authorities," UN deputy political affairs chief Taye-Brook Zerihoun said.
According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, 1,416 people were wounded in the clashes: 758 from live fire, 148 from rubber-tipped bullets, 422 from inhaling tear gas and 88 from other causes.
<<Gaza mass protests force Israeli military to maneuver between two contradictory goals | Analysis
In a separate incident, the Israeli military exchanged fire with two armed Palestinians who approached the border fence and opened fire toward Israeli soldiers. The IDF targeted three Hamas positions with tank fire and Israel Air Force fighter jets in response.
The Israeli military declared the area along the border a closed military zone, responding with live ammunition and other riot control methods in hopes of dispersing the protests. The army has also fired artillery at Hamas and Islamic Jihad positions in the Strip.
The "March of Return" marks Land Day, a day Palestinians worldwide have commemorated since 1976, when Israeli security forces shot dead six Israeli Arabs who were protesting the expropriation of Arab-owned land in northern Israel to build Jewish communities. About 100 others were wounded and hundreds were arrested during the protest on March 30 of that year.
Backed by the Hamas government in Gaza, Palestinians have established several tent camps housing thousands near the border. Thousands of Palestinians will camp out near the fence as an extended protest until Nakba Day in mid-May, with weekly demonstrations on Fridays.