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Israel threatens to open fire at Gaza protesters amid renewed rallies

Israeli minister for military affairs, Avigdor Lieberman (Photo by Reuters)

Israeli minister for military affairs warns that the army will continue to fire at Gazans if they approach the fence separating Israelis and Palestinians.

"If there are provocations, there will be a reaction of the harshest kind like last week," Avigdor Lieberman told public radio on Thursday ahead of fresh anti-occupation protests this weekend.

On March 30, Gazans marched to the fence at the start of a six-week protest, dubbed “The Great March of Return,” demanding the right to return for Palestinians driven out of their homeland.

The demonstrations turned violent after Israeli forces used tear gas and live fire against the protesters.

A total of 20 Palestinians were killed, 19 of them during the March 30 clashes and another by Israeli drone fire late Wednesday night. 

The Israeli regime's use of lethal force against Gazans has sparked criticism worldwide. The UN and the EU have both called for an investigation into the carnage, but Tel Aviv has rejected the proposal.

On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch slammed Israel’s killing of Palestinian protesters as “unlawful” and “calculated,” saying those officials behind the shoot orders are to blame for the bloodshed.

The Return rallies culminate on May 15, the day Palestinians commemorate Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe) when hundreds of thousands fled or were driven out of their homes in 1948 and Israel was created.

Now, preparations are underway for new protests near the Gaza fence this weekend.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Lieberman said he hoped the Palestinians would understand that the protests were "not worth it to continue," claiming that most of the Gaza victims were "well-known terrorists."

“We have set very clear rules [of engagement] and we have no intention of changing them,” he said. “We are determined to protect the security of Israeli citizens, of course, first and foremost, in the area of Gaza, and there will be no compromise on this issue, no flexibility.”

On Wednesday, Israeli rights group B'Tselem called on troops to disobey the military’s “manifestly illegal” shoot-to-kill orders.

“As long as soldiers in the field continue to receive orders to use live fire against unarmed civilians, they are duty-bound to refuse to comply,” the group said, adding, “Yet obeying patently illegal orders is a criminal offense.”

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