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Israel threatens to expand violence after UN meeting

Palestinian protesters evacuate a wounded youth during clashes with Israeli troops along the Gaza Strip fence, east of Khan Younis, March 30, 2018. (Photo by AP)

The Israeli military has threatened to step up its “response” if tensions continue on the Gaza fence shortly after the UN held an emergency meeting over the regime’s massacre of over a dozen Palestinians during an anti-occupation mass rally in the coastal enclave.

Israel’s chief military spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said Saturday that the regime has thus far restricted its response to those he claimed to be trying to breach the fence along the occupied territories.

He added that the military would, however go after those behind the angry demonstrations “in other places too.”

According to the figures provided by the Gaza Health Ministry, 16 Palestinians were killed and over 1,400 others wounded on Friday after Israeli forces fired live ammunition at Palestinian protesters marking Land Day and used tear gas to push them back from a heavily fortified fence.

Ahead of the protest, the Israeli military had deployed tanks and 100 snipers with the authority to use live rounds along the fence.

The latest threat came a day after the 15-member Security Council met at Kuwait’s request, with its UN representative Mansour al-Otaibi describing the situation in the Israeli-besieged Gaza Strip as “very dangerous.”

Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour said he expected “the Security Council to shoulder its responsibility” regarding a “heinous massacre” of peaceful Gaza demonstrators by Israeli forces and “defuse this volatile situation, which clearly constitutes a threat to international peace and security.”

Meanwhile, assistant UN secretary general for political affairs, Taye-Brook Zerihoun, urged maximum restraint amid “fear that the situation might deteriorate in the coming days.”

“Israel must uphold its responsibilities under international human rights and humanitarian law. Lethal force should only be used as a last resort with any resulting fatalities properly investigated by the authorities,” he added.

Additionally on Friday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged “an independent and transparent investigation” into the Gaza clashes and reaffirmed the world body’s “readiness” to support the so-called peace process.

Farhan Haq, a deputy spokesperson for Guterres, quoted the UN chief as saying that the Gaza “tragedy underlines the urgency of revitalizing the peace process aiming at creating the conditions for a return to meaningful negotiations for a peaceful solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

A Palestinian youth suffering from tear gas exposure during a demonstration commemorating Land Day, receives treatment in a medical tent near the border, east of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip on March 30, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Israeli representative at the UN, however, did not take part in Friday’s Security Council meeting.

Muslim world reacts

Meanwhile, Muslim nations voiced their outrage over the Israeli military’s response to the mass demonstration in Gaza.

In a statement on Friday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry accused Israel of using “disproportionate force” against the Palestinians and expressed “concerns” over the casualties of Friday’s clashes.

It also called on Tel Aviv to “rapidly” stop resorting to force and “give up on its hostile attitude.”

Additionally, the Qatari Foreign Ministry said the Israeli escalation was a violation of international laws and conventions.

It further called on the international community and the Security Council to assume their responsibility in containing the Israeli war machine against the Palestinian people.

Doha also stressed its support for Palestinian rights, including the right to return to their homeland.

Moreover, Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit condemned in the strongest terms the Israeli attacks and warned that regime's persistence in violence drags the whole region to the abyss.

He said in a press release that the Israeli occupation shoulders the legal, political and moral responsibility for such violations.

The Saudi regime is still silent on the bloody Israeli crackdown on the Palestinian protest.

Palestinians mourn

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has announced Saturday a national day of mourning in honor of the victims.

On Friday, thousands of people attended the funeral of one of the Palestinian victims, identified as Sari Walid Abu Odeh, in the city of Beit Hanoun on the northeast edge of the Gaza Strip. 

Dubbed “The Great March of Return,” Friday’s rallies in Gaza coincided with the 42nd anniversary of Land Day, which commemorates the murder of six Palestinians by Israeli forces in 1976.

The Return rallies will culminate on 15 May, which marks Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe) on which Israel was created.  

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli siege since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in living standards as well as unprecedented unemployment and poverty.

Tel Aviv has waged three wars on the coastal enclave since 2008, including the 2014 offensive, which left more than 2,200 Palestinians dead.

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