UK foreign minister urges Netanyahu to open independent probe of Gaza deaths

Boris Johnson says Britain is ‘concerned by the deaths of over 120 Palestinians in recent weeks and the deteriorating situation in Gaza’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with Boris Johnson at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, June 6, 2018. (Haim Zach (GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with Boris Johnson at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, June 6, 2018. (Haim Zach (GPO)

Britain’s Foreign Minister Boris Johnson urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday to open an independent investigation into the dozens of Palestinians killed by Israeli troops during violent protests on the Gaza border over the past several months.

Meeting Netanyahu during the Israeli premier’s visit to London, Johnson condemned “incitement and rocket fire against Israel,” but said that the UK was worried about the worsening situation for Palestinians in Gaza.

“We are very concerned by the deaths of over 120 Palestinians in recent weeks and the deteriorating situation in Gaza,” Johnson told Netanyahu.

The foreign minister said there was “a need for Israel to carry out a transparent, independent inquiry into the loss of more than 120 Palestinian lives during the recent Gaza protests, as well as over 10,000 injuries.”

Earlier this month, the UK abstained from a United Nations Security Council resolution which called for an inquiry into the deaths.

Before meeting Johnson, Netanyahu told UK Prime Minister Theresa May that the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip stems from the Hamas terrorist group’s desire to destroy Israel, adding that Israel was doing everything it could to minimize casualties.

“As far as Gaza is concerned, I think the problems there are rooted in the fundamental goal of Hamas to destroy Israel. We’re not witnessing peaceful protests. In addition to burning our fields, these people are being paid for and pushed by Hamas to try to break into Israel’s defenses, kill as many Israelis as they can, right next to our border, and kidnap our soldiers,” said Netanyahu.

“This is not a non-violent protest; quite the contrary,” added Netanyahu. “We are doing everything we can to both minimize casualties, and at the same time protect Israeli lives.”

Israeli firefighters extinguish a fire in a wheat field caused from kites flown by Palestinian protesters, near the border with the Gaza Strip, May 30, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu also highlighted the dozens of Israeli fields alongside the coastal enclave that have been torched by incendiary kites sent by Palestinians, in addition to the diverting of humanitarian aid by Hamas for the construction of terror tunnels into Israel.

Netanyahu’s comments came in response to May expressing “concern about the loss of Palestinian lives.”

The UK prime minister said Britain “absolutely recognizes” Israel’s right to defend itself against “extremists and terrorists.”

“But with 100 Palestinian lives lost and a deteriorating situation in Gaza I hope we can talk about how we can alleviate that situation and how we can ensure that we can get back to a position where we are able to find a way through to talk about a two-state solution,” she added.

On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his “condemnation of any form of violence toward civilians and in particular, these past few weeks in Gaza,” during his meeting with Netanyahu.

On Monday, Netanyahu said he discussed alleviating Gaza’s humanitarian situation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He said the the weekly protests on the border are a symptom of the ruling Hamas terror group having failed to pull the enclave out of a dire situation which has left millions without electricity or clean water.

A picture taken on May 14, 2018, from the southern Israeli kibbutz of Nahal Oz across the border with the Gaza Strip shows Israeli soldiers keeping position and Palestinian protesters gathering along the border fence with Israel. (AFP/JACK GUEZ)

Over 110 Gazans have been killed in border protests since March 30, including over 60 on May 14, the day the US moved its embassy. Hamas said 50 of the May 14 fatalities were its members. May 14 was also the eve of “Nakba Day,” when the Palestinians mark what they call the “catastrophe” that befell them with the establishment of Israel. At least half of those killed since the protests began in March have been identified as members of Hamas or other terror groups by the groups themselves.

Israel says its forces have opened fire to stop attempts to harm soldiers, damage the fence and infiltrate Israel in a bid to carry out attacks. Israel says Hamas, an Islamist terror group which seeks Israel’s destruction, uses the protests as cover for violence.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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