Bernie Sanders calls the killing of Palestinian demonstrators ‘tragic’

Vermont senator tells CNN he does not believe Israeli claims that rioters threw rocks and firebombs and opened fire at soldiers

Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) speaks to a crowd of supporters at a Democratic unity rally at the Rail Event Center on April 21, 2017, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (George Frey/Getty Images via JTA)
Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) speaks to a crowd of supporters at a Democratic unity rally at the Rail Event Center on April 21, 2017, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (George Frey/Getty Images via JTA)

Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders criticized Israel’s use of force on the border with Gaza in a tweet, saying that the killing was “tragic.”

“The killing of Palestinian demonstrators by Israeli forces in Gaza is tragic. It is the right of all people to protest for a better future without a violent response,” Sanders, tweeted on Saturday. The tweet garnered 26,000 likes.

Sanders was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 and the first Jewish presidential candidate to win nominating contests in a major party

He also tweeted: “Meanwhile, the situation in Gaza remains a humanitarian disaster. The US must play a more positive role in ending the Gaza blockade and helping Palestinians and Israelis build a future that works for all.”

On Friday, some 30,000 Palestinians took part in demonstrations along the Gaza border, during which rioters threw rocks and firebombs at Israeli troops on the other side of the fence, burned tires and scrap wood, sought to breach and damage the security fence, and, in at least one case, opened fire at Israeli soldiers.

IDF troops retaliated mostly with less-lethal riot dispersal means, namely tear gas and rubber bullets, but in some cases used live fire.

According to the army, in keeping with its rules of engagement, the Palestinians who were shot were either attacking IDF soldiers with stones and Molotov cocktails, were actively trying to damage the security fence, or were attempting to place improvised explosive devices along the security fence, which could later be used in attacks against Israeli patrols.

Sanders later told CNN’s Jake Tapper that Israel overreacted against Palestinian protesters in Gaza on Friday, saying he did not buy Israel’s explanation.

“I think from what my understanding is, tens and tens of thousands of people were engaged in a nonviolent protest. It’s a difficult situation, but my assessment is that Israel overreacted on that,” he said.

The Israel Defense Forces said Saturday that at least 10 of those killed — the Gazans reported a death toll of 15 — were members of Palestinian terror groups, including Hamas.

Fatalities from the March 30 violence on the Israel-Gaza border identified by Israel as members of terror groups. (Israel Defense Forces)

As of Saturday evening, Hamas, a terrorist group that openly seeks to destroy Israel, acknowledged that five of the dead in the so-called “March of Return” were its own gunmen.

Sanders also said the US needs to take a more active role in solving the crisis in Gaza, and criticized US President Donald Trump for saying the US is pulling out of Syria very soon.

“The US has got to be involved in dealing with the terrible tragedy in Gaza. Gaza is a disaster right now. We’re gonna continue to see those kinds of demonstration and protests,” he said in the interview.

Last month, Sanders helped launch what purports to be a global peace movement on the anniversary of the Iraq War, which he said precipitated much of the chaos in the Middle East.

“Had it not been for the Iraq War, ISIS would almost certainly not exist,” Sanders said in the Global Call for Peace. “It undermined American diplomatic efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”

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