Israel’s defense minister scoffed at the idea that an independent inquiry was needed into the killing of at least 15 Palestinians by the military during a protest at the Gaza-Israel border on Friday. In fact, the minister said, the soldiers who shot at the Palestinian protesters deserve to be honored. “Israeli soldiers did what was necessary. I think all our soldiers deserve a medal,” Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said. “As for a commission of inquiry—there won’t be one.”
Lieberman insisted that Israeli soldiers only shot at Palestinian protesters who charged toward the border and rejected accusations that peaceful protesters were harmed. More than 700 Palestinians were injured with live ammunition during the protest, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. It was the deadliest violence in the area in four years. Hamas has said five of the dead were members of its armed wing. Israel, on the other hand, says eight of the 15 were part of Hamas while two others were militants from other factions.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel was “fully responsible” for killing Palestinian protesters and outrage grew as a video began circulating that appeared to show an unarmed teenager, 19-year-old Abdul Fattah Abdul Nabi, being gunned down by an Israeli sniper while carrying a tire. “He had no gun, no molotov, a tire. Does that harm the Israelis, a tire?” his brother Mohamed Abdul Nabi, 22, told the Washington Post. “He wasn’t going toward the Israeli side. He was running away.”
The Israeli army, however, accuses militants in Gaza of using civilian protesters as cover for terrorist activity. The protest, which on Friday included tens of thousands of people, is part of a planned demonstration set to run for the next six weeks, which the Israeli army describes as “an organized terrorist operation.”
Although the United Nations secretary general had called for an independent inquiry into Friday’s violence, the United States blocked a Security Council resolution on the issue Saturday.