Israeli diplomats told the UN Human Rights Council that its inquiry into the ‘March of Return’ protests over the last year on the Gaza border downplayed Hamas’s role leading violent protests.
In a briefing yesterday, one Israeli official said: “For the commission, Hamas is completely absent from this report. They see no Hamas, they hear no Hamas. Hamas has complete control of these events.” Israeli diplomats provided evidence that they said proved Hamas’s involvement throughout the protests, including serious violence targeting Israeli troops, shootings and explosive attacks.
The report published by the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry last month alleged that Israeli soldiers intentionally shot children, journalists, health workers and other civilians while responding to rioting along the Gaza border between March 30 and December 31 last year. Israel has denied the allegation and said soldiers were only allowed to use live fire against those who posed “a real and imminent threat”.
Israel also disputed the list of Palestinians killed during border clashes that the commission described as civilians. One example they cite is Naji Abu Hojayeer, identified as a 24-year-old mechanic who was shot in the abdomen by Israeli troops, but Israel said he was a Hamas fighter.
Israeli diplomats said the Military Police have opened 11 criminal investigations connected to the Gaza deaths, including the deaths of eight Palestinians in three incidents. “We have been trying to deal with these events in the best non-lethal way possible,” one official said, adding that civilians may have been hit by Israeli fire if a sniper missed or by a bullet that passed through its target.
The Israel Defence Forces say its soldiers adhere strictly to international live fire regulations and have only opened fire in cases where protesters posed a direct threat to troops or to prevent attempts by large numbers of rioters to break through the border fence.
The ‘Great March of Return’ protests began on 30 March 2018 and have routinely turned violent, with some participants burning tyres, throwing rocks and explosive devices at Israeli soldiers and launching balloons and kites with explosives attached to them.
More than 250 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the protests began and two Israeli soldiers have been killed.