ISRAELI Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday there were ‘no innocent people’ in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip after ten days of protests and clashes left 30 Palestinians dead.
‘There are no innocent people in the Gaza Strip,’ Lieberman told Israel’s public radio.
‘Everyone’s connected to Hamas, everyone gets a salary from Hamas, and all the activists trying to challenge us and breach the border are Hamas military wing activists.’
Israel has faced mounting questions over its use of live fire after ten days of protests and clashes along the Gaza Strip border in which its forces have killed 30 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s health ministry. Violence spiked again on Friday, when clashes erupted as thousands protested along the border, and nine Palestinians, including a journalist, were killed.
On March 30, Israeli forces killed 19 Palestinians as a protest by tens of thousands led to clashes.
There have been no reported Israeli casualties. Israel says it has only opened fire when necessary to stop damage to the border fence, infiltrations and attempted attacks.
It alleges Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip and with whom it has fought three wars since 2008, is seeking to use the protests as cover to carry out violence. But rights groups have harshly criticised Israeli soldiers’ actions, and Palestinians say protesters are being shot while posing no threat to troops.
The European Union and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have called for an independent investigation, which Israel has rejected. On Saturday, the European Union raised questions over whether Israeli troops engaged in ‘proportionate use of force’.
• PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi Sunday released a statement on the 70th anniversary of the Deir Yassin Massacre, calling for the protection of Palestinian people and holding Israel accountable for its violations.
‘On April 9, 1948, armed members of the Zionist terrorist organisations the Irgun and Lehi gangs attacked the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin in the Jerusalem district and brutally murdered 254 innocent men, women and children,’ the statement said.
‘The Deir Yassin massacre was not an isolated incident; rather, it occurred in the context of further massacres that Israel committed against the Palestinian people in the span of 70 years.
‘Deir Yassin, Nasir al-Din, Haifa, Yazur, Bayt Daras, al-Tantura, al-Lydd, al-Dawayima, Saliha, Qibya, Kufr Qasim, Shuja’iyya, al-Ibrahimi mosque, al-Aqsa, and the most recent massacre of unarmed protesters in Gaza on March 31, among others, will continue to form tragic chapters in our history; yet they are also a tribute to Palestinian resilience and steadfastness.
‘International condemnation is critical, but it is not enough. It is absolutely vital to guarantee protection for the Palestinian people and to hold Israel to account for its violations of international law and international humanitarian law with concrete and serious measures that include punitive action and sanctions.
‘The termination of the military and belligerent occupation is the only way to put an end to Israel’s policies of apartheid and ethnic cleansing, primarily the escalation in illegal settlement activities, home demolitions, revocation of Jerusalem IDs, and the persistent annexation of Palestinian land and resources.
‘It is also imperative to establish the sovereign and independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital,’ Ashrawi said. ‘Furthermore, Israel should admit its culpability and make reparations to the Palestinian people for the extensive destruction and suffering inflicted on them, including compensation and restitution for lost properties and human suffering.’
Ashrawi also said that a just peace for Palestinians is overdue, calling on the international community to stand with Palestine in its mission for freedom and dignity.
‘Today, we honour the victims of Israel’s systematic policies of destruction and massacres.
‘A just peace for the Palestinians is long overdue. We call on the international community to join us in our mission to secure freedom, dignity and self-determination for the people of Palestine,’ she concluded.
• News about the two Palestinians who died of wounds sustained by Israeli forces’ fire on the eastern border of the Gaza Strip hit the front pages of the three Arabic Palestinian newspapers.
Al-Hayat al-Jadida, al-Ayyam and al-Quds said two Palestinians, including a photojournalist, died early Saturday of their wounds sustained after Israeli soldiers opened fire at them at Gaza’s border with Israel on Friday.
Photojournalist Yasser Murtaja, 30, died from wounds he received as he was covering the border protests to the east of Khan Younes, in the southern Gaza Strip, while Hamza Abdulal, 20, died of injuries he sustained from Israeli gunfire to the east of al-Bureij in the central Gaza Strip.
The three dailies also said the Orthodox Church is celebrating Easter today as thousands of followers of the church waited patiently inside and outside the Church of Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City for the ‘holy fire’ to descend on the church.
President Mahmoud Abbas said that Palestine is an example of coexistence, saying that Easter is a national feast for all Palestinians. The dailies said that for the second time in a week, the US blocked a UN call for investigation into the recent situations in the Gaza Strip.
Al-Ayyam said that France and Egypt condemned Israel’s use of excessive power against Palestinians.
The dailies said hundreds of people marched in London in solidarity with Palestinians and in condemnation of the Israeli crimes.
• The Palestine News and Information Agency (WAFA) has documented 28 violations by Israeli occupation forces against journalists working in the occupied Palestinian territories during March 2018. WAFA said in its monthly report of Israeli violations against journalists that 16 journalists were either shot and injured by Israeli forces, suffocated from teargas or were beaten by Israeli soldiers.
Meanwhile, it said 14 other journalists were arrested, briefly detained or were fired at by Israeli soldiers but not injured. The report came only two days after the fatal shooting by Israeli forces of Palestinian cameraman Yasser Murtaja at the Gaza-Israel border on Friday.
• United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights Liz Throssell released a statement over the weekend condemning the ‘deplorable killing’ of Palestinian protesters in Gaza. The statement was released on Friday, hours before nine Palestinians were killed along the border – including a journalist and two minors – bringing the death toll to 29 since ‘The Great March of Return’ began on March 30.
‘Given the deplorable killing of 16 people and the injuring of reportedly more than 1,000 others during protests in Gaza, mostly on 30 March, we are gravely concerned that further violence could occur during demonstrations today and in the coming weeks,’ Throssel said.
‘Given the large number of injuries and deaths, the ominous statements made by Israeli authorities in the days leading up to the protest, as well as indications that the individuals killed or wounded were unarmed or did not pose a serious threat to well-protected security forces – and in some cases were actually running away from the fence – there are strong indications that security forces used excessive force.’
The statement went on to note that Israeli forces are required by international human rights law ‘to respect the rights to peaceful assembly and expression and to use, to the extent possible, non-violent means to discharge their duties.”
‘In accordance with international human rights law, firearms may be used only in cases of extreme necessity, as a last resort, and in response to an imminent threat of death or risk of serious injury.’
Throssel highlighted that even if protesters ‘attempt to approach or cross the green-line fence,’ it ‘does not amount to a threat to life or serious injury that would justify the use of live ammunition.’
‘We remind Israel of its obligations to ensure that excessive force is not employed against protesters and that in the context of a military occupation, as is the case in Gaza, the unjustified and unlawful recourse to firearms by law enforcement resulting in death may amount to a wilful killing, a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention,’ Throssel said.
‘We echo the call by the UN Secretary-General for an independent and transparent investigation into these incidents, with a view to holding accountable those responsible.’” Following the deadly first day of protests in Gaza last week, the UN and European Union (EU) called for an investigation into the Israeli army’s violent suppression of protests.
The UN call for the investigation into the killings came after the US blocked a UN Security Council (UNSC) statement condemning Israel’s use of force against civilian protesters at the Gaza border, which rights groups have deemed criminal and illegal.