The European Union (EU) has renewed its call for utmost restraint following Friday's violence during which at least nine Palestinians were killed by gunfire from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). The EU said on Saturday the violence "raises serious questions about the proportionate use of force which must be addressed."
The casualties included a minor and a journalist, Yasser Murtaja, who died from his wounds after being shot during what witnesses described as chaotic scenes. A press photo showed Murtaja wearing a press vest as he received treatment.
Read more: Death toll rises in Gaza border protests
A post on the official IDF Twitter account said it had been "protecting Israeli civilians whose homes are just minutes from the Gaza border."
An EU statement called for clarification of IDF reports about stones and firebombs being thrown from the Gaza side against their positions and attempts to cross the fence into Israel.
"The priority now must be to avoid any further escalation and loss of life. Palestinian factions must engage seriously to allow the Palestinian Authority to resume its full responsibilities in Gaza, which is crucial for improving the situation of the people in Gaza," the EU stated.
Read more: EU calls for probe into Gaza protest
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Saturday accused Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, of "sending terrorists under the guise of civilians to harm our sovereignty."
The IDF's commanding officer of the southern command, Eyal Zamir, said: "What we faced and what we are facing at the end of the day is a violent riot that includes attempts to carry out terror attacks and a hostile sabotage."
A UN Security Council draft statement calling for an independent probe into the incident was vetoed by the United States late on Friday. The other 14 UNSC members voted in favor of an investigation.
Speaking at the UN headquarters in New York, Palestinian UN ambassador, Riyad Mansour condemned the killings, telling reporters: "the pressure will be mounting in all parts of the international community — not only the Security Council, but all parts including the secretary general — to do something in order to stop this continuing massacre against the Palestinian people."
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged all parties to exercise maximum restraint, said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
Palestinian journalist's funeral
Yasser Murtaja's body was taken from the hospital to his home in Gaza City on Saturday morning. It was wrapped in a Palestinian flag, with a press vest placed on his stomach.
Ismail Haniya, the head of Hamas, attended the funeral and said that journalists were attacked by Israel while trying to show a "true picture of a blockaded, downtrodden people."
Christophe Deloire from watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Murtaja was "obviously the victim of an intentional shot" and that RSF "condemns with indignation the deliberate shootings of the Israeli army against journalists." Deloire urged an independent investigation of the incident.
Friday's protests were held as part of a six-week campaign against Israel's treatment of Palestinians, which will culminate in a border march on May 15 — the day after the 70th anniversary of Israel's founding — to commemorate the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians uprooted during the 1948 Middle East war surrounding the creation of the Jewish state. The events of that time are called "Nakba," or "catastrophe," by Palestinians.
kw/jm (AFP, AP, Reuters)