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Israel Rejects Calls For An Investigation Into The Deaths Of 18 Palestinians In Gaza


Israel rejects calls by the U.N. and European Union for an investigation into what happened in Gaza Friday. Gaza officials say 18 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire during some of the biggest demonstrations in years. Israel says its response was proportional to the threat posed. NPR's Daniel Estrin is in Gaza sorting through these allegations.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Friday's protests drew about 30,000 Palestinians rallied by the militant group Hamas that rules Gaza. It called for Palestinians to go to the Israeli border. It was meant to be a demonstration demanding to return to lands that are today a part of Israel. Israel says some Palestinians threw rocks and firebombs and tried to light tires on fire and burn the border fence. It also says two Palestinians fired on its troops. Israel shot tear gas, rubber bullets and live fire. The Israeli army tweeted this video message from army spokeswoman Keren Hajioff.


KEREN HAJIOFF: Our soldiers precisely targeted the specific terrorists that attempted to carry out these acts of terror, some of them known terrorists to our security forces.

ESTRIN: Palestinians posted video footage of one death. It shows Abdel Fattah Abdel Nabi running away from the border carrying a tire when he was shot. Israel says he had been trying to light the border fence on fire and was active in Hamas' militant wing. The militant wing said indeed five of its fighters had been killed but didn't include him.

BAHJAT: (Speaking Arabic).

ESTRIN: "He was a human, a kid, not a Hamas militant," his father Bahjat said sitting yesterday in a mourner's tent set up on the street. But posters hanging in the tent show Hamas claiming him as one of its martyrs. That likely means he's linked to the group but doesn't explain whether he was a militant himself. Another subject of dispute is the number of people injured. Israel said Palestinian reports of more than 700 Palestinians wounded by live fire are exaggerated. It's only tens of Palestinians, the army said. Several Gaza hospitals treated the wounded. At the biggest, emergency ward director Dr. Ayman al Sahabani flipped through logs showing about a hundred people operated on for gunshots mostly in the lower limbs.

AYMAN AL SAHABANI: You see the names here. And this is (speaking Arabic) - lower limb, lower limb, lower limb, lower limb, live fire, live fire, live fire, live fire and so on.

ESTRIN: Since Friday, demonstrations have been smaller with fewer injuries. Israel says these demonstrations are meant as cover for militants to breach its border fence. It says everyone shot was involved in violence.

NARIMAN AL AGAD: (Speaking Arabic).

ESTRIN: In the hospital, Nariman al Agad sat next to her 15-year-old son who lay in a bed with his thigh bandaged. She says they went to picnic at the border Saturday when it was quieter. She says drones began to drop tear gas, an army tactic. They ran and he was shot. She says he was carrying a Palestinian flag. Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Gaza. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.
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