Thousand of Palestinians protested along the Gaza border on Friday with some rioting and clashing with Israeli troops, a day after the United Nations released a report accusing Israel of potential crimes against humanity for its response to the weekly riots.
Some 8,000 Palestinians took part in the protests and some burned tires and threw, explosive devices, rocks and grenades at Israeli troops guarding the security fence, according to the army
Soldiers responded with tear gas and in some instances live fire, the army said.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said 21 Palestinians were wounded during the clashes by Israeli fire.
The riots were part of the “March of Return” protests, which have taken place weekly along the border since last March and have periodically escalated into major flareups between the Israeli military and Gaza-based terror groups.
Israel has accused Hamas, the terror organization that rules the Strip, of orchestrating the clashes and using them as cover to breach the border and carry out attacks.
Recent weeks have seen a dramatic increase in the level of violence along the Gaza border, with near nightly riots and a return of airborne arson attacks, which had waned in light of a de facto ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas.
This week’s riots came a day after the release of a report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council on Israel’s handling of the clashes that alleged there is evidence Israeli soldiers committed crimes again humanity.
“The Commission found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot at journalists, health workers, children and persons with disabilities, knowing they were clearly recognizable as such,” it said.
The investigators specified that there were reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli troops killed and injured Palestinians “who were neither directly participating in hostilities, nor posing an imminent threat.”
It said more than 6,000 people were shot by military snipers using live ammunition during the period investigated, with 189 killed.
The UN team also dismissed claims by Israel that the protests were aimed to conceal acts of terrorism that have included shootings, grenade and bomb attacks, Molotov cocktails and breaches of the border fence.
“The demonstrations were civilian in nature, with clearly stated political aims,” the statement said. “Despite some acts of significant violence, the Commission found that the demonstrations did not constitute combat or military campaigns.”
The report was strongly denounced by Israeli leaders, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying it set “new records in hypocrisy and lies.”
“It is Hamas which fires rockets at Israeli civilians, bombs and carries out terrorist activities during the violent demonstrations on the fence,” he said
The inquiry investigated possible violations from the start of the protests on March 30, 2018, through December 31.
The UNHRC report came a day after Israeli jets struck multiple targets in the southern Gaza Strip linked to Hamas, in response to an incendiary device flown over the border from Gaza that damaged a home in the Eshkol region. There were no reports of casualties from the Israeli strikes.
Agencies contributed to this report.