-At least 15 Palestinians were killed on Friday by Israeli gunfire near Gaza border
-Pope Francis calls for reconciliation for the Holy Land
– UN, EU Demand independent probe
Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday rejected calls for an inquiry into the killing of 15 Palestinians by the military during a Palestinian demonstration that turned violent on Friday at the Gaza-Israel border.
He rejected criticism of Israel’s actions, saying soldiers along the Gaza frontier “deserve a medal” and did what was necessary to protect the border.
“As for a commission of inquiry – there won’t be one,” he told Israeli Army Radio.
Hamas, the dominant Palestinian group in Gaza, said five of the dead were members of its armed wing. Israel said eight of the 15 belonged to Hamas, designated a terrorist group by Israel and the West, and two others came from other militant factions.
In his Easter sermon, Pope Francis, made reference to the events in Gaza,and called for “reconciliation for the Holy Land, also experiencing in these days the wounds of ongoing conflict that do not spare the defenseless.”
Similarly, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the European Union’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, have called for an independent investigation into Friday’s bloodshed.
A tense calm descended on Sunday on the border area, where hundreds of Palestinians, a fraction of the tens of thousands who initially turned out, remained in tent encampments along the fenced 65-km (40-mile) border.
The United States blocked a Kuwait-drafted U.N. Security Council statement on Saturday, diplomats said, that would have called for an independent investigation and urged restraint by all sides.
On Saturday, Israeli troops using live ammunition and rubber bullets shot and wounded about 70 Palestinians among demonstrators at the border, Palestinian officials said. Witnesses said stones were thrown at the soldiers.
Doctors at Gaza’s crowded Shifa hospital said they were running out of medicine and other supplies.
The protest is scheduled to culminate on May 15, when Palestinians mark the “Nakba” or “Catastrophe” when hundreds of thousands fled or were driven out of their homes in 1948, when the state of Israel was created. Israel has long ruled out any right of return, fearing it would lose its Jewish majority.
The Israeli military accused Hamas of “cynically exploiting women and children” by sending them to the fence. A Hamas spokesman called the allegations “lies aimed at justifying the massacres”.