TEL AVIV • Israeli and Palestinian leaders blamed each other for the deaths of at least 16 Palestinians who were part of a mass protest along the Gaza border, with each side lobbing threats of escalating the violence.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel was “fully responsible” for killing his countrymen, and a video appearing to show an unarmed teenager being gunned down by Israeli sniper fire circulated on Palestinian media.
The Israeli army argued that Gazan militants were using civilian protesters as cover as they fired at soldiers and tried to lay explosives near the border fence. The protest, which peaked at some 30,000 participants last Friday and will run for the next six weeks, is “an organised terrorist operation”, the Israeli army said in a tweet on Saturday.
“What we saw yesterday were attempts to launch rockets, attempts to carry out live attacks, Molotov cocktails, attempts to set fire to the security fence, and a lot of terrorist activity,” the Israel Defence Force said on Twitter. The army later deleted a tweet that claimed it knew where every bullet fired had landed.
Abbas said Palestinians needed international protection from Israel, and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for an independent inquiry into last Friday’s deaths. Overnight on Saturday, the S blocked a Security Council resolution blasting the Israeli response in Gaza and calling for an investigation. Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman accused the international community of hypocrisy and said there would be no inquiry. — Bloomberg