The Latest: Palestinian ambassador challenges Israel on Gaza

The Latest: Palestinian ambassador challenges Israel on Gaza
The Associated Press

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The Latest on protests at Gaza border with Israel (all times local):

2:15 a.m.

The Palestinian U.N. ambassador is challenging Israel to agree to an independent commission to investigate events in Gaza and determine “who are the criminals, who are violating international law and to hold them responsible for these crimes.”

Riyad Mansour demanded to know why Israel won’t accept an independent and transparent investigation, as Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for.

He said the Palestinians are exploring ideas, including at the Geneva-based Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court, to “stop this massacre and serve justice and to hold accountability.”

“We will not leave a stone unturned,” he told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York on Friday.

“Those cowards who are hiding behind the hills and armed to the teeth … with high velocity rifles to use them as snipers against civilians — shame on them. They are the cowards who are facing defenseless civilians and killing them, as one would go hunting in the open fields,” Mansour said.

“If they are really a moral force,” he said, “they would not conduct themselves in this matter. They would allow people to demonstrate peacefully without threatening their lives.”

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6:40 p.m.

The Israeli military has responded to the reported violence at the border fence east of Gaza City, saying its troops “thwarted” an attempted infiltration by Palestinian protesters.

In a statement Friday, the army said “hundreds of rioters” tried to burn the fence and infiltrate Israel. It says the crowd approached the fence and threw grenades, explosives, firebombs and rocks as they tried to set the fence on fire. It says troops opened fire “in accordance with the rules of engagement” and halted the crowd.

The military says in other incidents Friday, Palestinian crowds rolled burning tires, hurled rocks and flown kites with flaming objects attached with the goal of damaging the fence and other Israeli targets.

It also released a photo appearing to show a group of youths tugging at barbed wire along the fence.

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6:05 p.m.

Gaza’s Health Ministry says a Palestinian has been killed by Israeli gunfire while trying to breach the Gaza border.

The ministry said three others were wounded in the incident Friday afternoon east of Gaza City.

Gaza’s Islamic militant rulers have called for a mass rally at the border every Friday as part of a weeks-long campaign of protests against a decade-old blockade of the territory.

Israel is closely guarding the fence and has warned it will not tolerate attempts to breach it. Israel’s military has said troops are under orders to target “instigators,” but has also warned that anyone approaching or trying to damage the fence risks his life.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said 50 people were wounded earlier in the day, including at least 16 by live fire.

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5:35 p.m.

Hundreds of Palestinian protesters have gathered next to the fence along the Israeli border east of Gaza City.

Heavy Israeli gunfire was heard Friday afternoon as the crowd broke away from a larger protest and moved toward the fence. Witnesses said at least three protesters broke through the fence and briefly entered Israel before running back.

There were no immediate details on injuries, but ambulances rushed to the scene and took away dozens of wounded.

The Israeli military had no immediate information on the incident.

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12:55 p.m.

The U.N. high commissioner for human rights has urged Israel to refrain from using excessive force against Palestinians who have been staging weekly mass protests on the Gaza border with Israel.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein made his appeal ahead of a fifth round of Gaza marches on Friday, aimed in part at trying to break a decade-long blockade of the territory.

The commissioner says Israel has not heeded warnings by the U.N. and others, after troops used lethal force against unarmed protesters, killing 35 Palestinians and wounding more than 1,500.

Since late March, thousands have demonstrated near the border every Friday, some throwing stones or burning tires. Israel says Gaza’s rulers from the militant Hamas group are using protests as cover for attacks on the border, including by planting explosives.

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