Gaza: The international group Human Rights Watch accused Israel’s defence minister Avigdor Lieberman and other senior Israeli officials of unlawfully calling for the use of live fire against Palestinian protesters who posed no imminent threat to life.
Last Friday, thousands of Palestinians marched near the border fence between Israel and Gaza, many gathering around tent encampments set up several hundred metres from the frontier.
Smaller groups moved closer to the fence, throwing stones, hurling firebombs or burning tires.
Israeli occupation troops were lined up on the other side of the fence, including snipers perched on high earth embankments overlooking Gaza.
Palestinian health officials have said 18 Palestinians were killed that day, including 13 involved in the mass protest, making it the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 cross-border war between Israel and Hamas, the de facto rulers of the enclave.
More than 1,000 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli fire, according to Gaza health officials.
Human Rights Watch said Israel has presented no evidence that rock-throwing or other violence seriously threatened the soldiers on the other side of the fence.
“The high number of deaths and injuries was the foreseeable consequence of granting soldiers leeway to use lethal force outside of life-threatening situations in violation of international norms, coupled with the longstanding culture of impunity within the Israeli army for serious abuses,” the group said.
Lieberman has rejected international calls for an independent investigation.
On Tuesday, he warned Hamas against what he called “continued provocation.”
“We have established clear ground rules and we do not intend to change them,” Lieberman said during a visit to an Israeli communal farm near Gaza.
“Anyone who approaches the border is putting his life in danger.”