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Israel rejects UN report claiming war crimes at Gaza protests

United Nations investigators said Israeli security forces may have committed war crimes over the killing of 189 Palestinians and wounding of more than 6,100 at weekly protests in Gaza last year.

“The Israeli security forces killed and maimed Palestinian demonstrators who did not pose an imminent threat of death or serious injury to others when they were shot, nor were they directly participating in hostilities,” the panel report said.

The probe was carried out by a UN commission of inquiry set up by the world body’s Human Rights Council.

It investigated possible violations from the start of the protests on 30 March 2018 through to 31 December.

“The commission found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot at journalists, health workers, children and persons with disabilities, knowing they were clearly recognisable as such,” it said.

Protests and clashes broke out along the Gaza border on 30 March last year.

The panel had confidential information about those believed to be responsible for the killings, including snipers and commanders, which was being given to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet for her to share with the International Criminal Court (ICC), it said.

Protests have been held at the frontier between Israel and Gaza since last year, calling for the easing of an Israeli blockade of the territory and recognition of the right of Palestinian refugees there to return to homes in Israel.

Israel has said its forces opened fire to protect the frontier from incursions and attacks by armed militants. Two Israeli soldiers were killed over the same period.

It rejected the findings of the UN investigation, calling it “hostile, deceitful and biased”.

In a statement, the country’s foreign minister Israel Katz said: “Israel rejects the report outright.

“No institution can negate Israel’s right to self-defence and its duty to defend its residents and borders from violent attacks.”

He said that those “pushing the residents of Gaza to the fences, including women and children, is Hamas, an organisation whose declared goal is destroying the state of Israel, and is the one to bear the responsibility”.