By Fatih Erel
There are "strong indications" that Israeli security forces used excessive force against unarmed people that left 16 people dead and more than 1,000 others injured during protests in Gaza, according to UN Friday.
Speaking at a news conference in Geneva on Friday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokeswoman Liz Throssell said: "Given the deplorable killing of 16 people and the injuring of reportedly more than 1,000 others during protests in Gaza, mostly on 30 March, we are gravely concerned that further violence could occur during demonstrations today and in the coming weeks."
Last Friday's border rallies kicked off a six-week demonstration that will culminate on May 15, which will mark the 70th anniversary of Israel's establishment -- an event Palestinians refer to as the "Nakba" or the "Catastrophe".
"The individuals killed or wounded were unarmed or did not pose a serious threat to well-protected security forces and in some cases were actually running away from the fence. There are strong indications that security forces used excessive force," Throssell said.
She warned Israeli security forces policing the green-line fence to respect the rights to peaceful assembly and expression and to use, to the extent possible, non-violent means to discharge their duties.
"We remind Israel of its obligations to ensure that excessive force is not employed against protesters and that in the context of a military occupation, as is the case in Gaza, the unjustified and unlawful recourse to firearms by law enforcement resulting in death may amount to a willful killing, a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention," Throssell said.
"We echo the call by the UN Secretary-General for an independent and transparent investigation into these incidents, with a view to holding accountable those responsible. We also call on leaders on both sides to do all in their power to prevent further injuries and loss of life."
Demonstrators demand that Palestinian refugees be granted the "right of return" to their towns and villages in historical Palestine, from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.
In the run-up to the mass demonstrations last week, Israel deployed thousands of troops on the border, threatening to use live ammunition against anyone who threatened Israel's "security infrastructure".Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.