A human rights group called for an international arms embargo on Israel over the Israeli military’s response to weekly riots on the border with the Gaza Strip.
In a statement Friday, Amnesty International accused Israel of carrying out a “murderous assault” on Palestinians participating in the violent “March of Return” protests, which have seen participants burn tires, throw rocks and firebombs at Israeli troops, fly flaming kites over the border, and attempt to destroy the border fence.
“The international community must act concretely and stop the delivery of arms and military equipment to Israel,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“A failure to do so will continue to fuel serious human rights abuses against thousands of men, women and children suffering the consequences of life under Israel’s cruel blockade of Gaza,” she added.
Mughrabi also called for the International Criminal Court to open a “war crimes” investigation if Israel does not pursue “criminal prosecutions of those responsible.”
Israel has defended its handling of the clashes, saying soldiers open fire in accordance with army regulations in order to protect security infrastructure and Israeli citizens. The army says Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza and seeks to destroy Israel, uses the protests as a cover for terrorism.
The call for an arms embargo on Israel came as Gazans rioted along the border for a fifth consecutive week, with the army saying some 10,000 Palestinians took part.
During the clashes, the IDF thwarted what it described as an attempted mass breach of the security fence in northeastern Gaza by hundreds of Palestinians.
The rioters approached the [security] fence, threw explosives, hand grenades, Molotov cocktails and rocks, and attempted to set the fence on fire,” the Israel Defense Forces said.
Video of the incident released by the army showed Palestinians burning tires near the fence and throwing rocks at an armored IDF vehicle.
According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, 955 people were injured and four killed during this week’s clashes, including a 15-year-old, bringing to 44 the number of Palestinians it says has been killed since the “March of Return” began.
The protests, which are backed and encouraged by Hamas were originally dubbed by their Palestinian organizers as nonviolent, but Hamas publicly supported the protests and declared that their ultimate goal was to erase the border and “liberate Palestine.” Rioters have burned tires, hurled firebombs and rocks at Israeli troops, flown flaming kites over the border and repeatedly attempted to sabotage the security fence.
The army says its troops only open fire at demonstrators who engage in violence, or who attempt to breach the barrier separating the territory from Israel. Palestinian videos have emerged that purport to show soldiers shooting protesters who did not pose a threat. The army has accused Hamas of fabricating video footage or releasing only partial clips
The military also says Hamas is using the protests as cover to damage the border fence and prepare to infiltrate and carry out attacks.
Hamas acknowledged that five of its terrorists were among the fatalities after the first Friday demonstration, but has since refrained for acknowledging whether its men are among the dead. Israel has identified other fatalities as members of terrorist groups.
Agencies contributed to this report.