Israel will refuse to participate in any potential international probe into the IDF’s actions on the Gaza border Friday that led to the deaths of 16 Palestinians, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told Army Radio on Sunday morning.Nor does Israel intend to conduct its own inquiry, Liberman added as he lauded the IDF for preventing an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 Palestinians from entering Israel by breaking through the security barrier that separates the Gaza Strip from southern Israel.UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres and Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, along with other leaders have called for an independent investigation into the bloodshed.Liberman said the United Nations would do better to investigate the half-million deaths in Syria.
Palestinian leaders and organizers of the six-week event launched Friday, which they have called the “Great March of Return” have claimed that many of the dead were innocent Palestinian protesters.They tweeted photographs and videos to back up their claims, including one picture of a protester who appeared to have been shot in the back.Israel, in turn, charged that at least 10 of the dead were terrorists. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Office tweeted a meme with the headline “Terrorists of the Violent Riots” that included photographs of the 10 men along with some basic information about their affiliations to Hamas or Islamic Jihad.Netanyahu’s Arabic spokesman Ofir Gendelman took issue with Hamas’s description of one of the dead as an artist.He tweeted the Hamas photo of the man by the sea and another one with him in uniform with a headband and gun.“Hamas said that this man who was killed in the #GreatReturnMarch when trying to attack Israeli territory was just an artist who loved to sculpt in the sand,” Gendelman said. “The truth: He was a Hamas terrorist whose job was to dig terror tunnels into Israel. Never believe anything Hamas says.”“Many of those who were killed were known terrorists from an elite Hamas brigade and from the Islamic Jihad,” said Liberman, adding, “They were armed” and that the march had been attempt to harm Israeli sovereignty.The IDF has charged that two of the dead were armed and had an explosive device with which they intended to carry out a terrorist attack against Israelis.“More than 90% of those who participated in the march were paid to do so by Hamas,” said Liberman. “They were following orders.”Regular Gaza citizens did not participate, he added.The soldiers and the sharpshooter “did what they needed to do. They [the Palestinians] did not get to the fence. They did not harm the national infrastructure,” he said.Israel had warned that demonstrators would be placing themselves in danger if they tried to get close to the fence, Liberman said, adding that no country would allow people to infiltrate their borders in such a fashion.This purpose of this march is to destroy Israel, said Liberman. Hamas is not speaking of co-existence or peace, he added.Liberman called on Hamas to make peace with Israel and to give up its arms. In exchange, Israel will fully open up the crossing and work to economically rehabilitate Gaza so it can become another Singapore.“We plan to defend ourselves and the rest is up to them,” he said.On Sunday the Palestine Authority called for an urgent meeting of the Arab League to discuss “Israel’s crimes” against Palestinians in Gaza on Friday, according to the Palestinian news agency Wafa.PA Ambassador Diab al-Louh told Wafa that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Foreign Affairs Minister Riyad al-Maliki had pressed for the meeting.Pope Francis, in his Easter address on Sunday, called for peace in the Holy Land as he spoke from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica to tens of thousands of people in the flower-bedecked square below where he earlier celebrated Mass.Francis appeared to refer directly to Friday’s Gaza violence last Friday, when he said there should be “reconciliation for the Holy Land, also experiencing in these days the wounds of the ongoing conflict that do not spare the defenseless.”The IDF said some 600 Palestinians protested along the Gaza border on Friday and that soldiers shot at seven rioters who were engaged in violence.Reuters contributed to this report.
Palestinians mark "Land Day" with protests on Israel-Gaza border (Reuters)