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Israel rejects 'biased' UN probe into its response to Gaza unrest

1 min 28Approximate reading time

Israel rejected the findings of a UN probe released Thursday into its soldiers' response to Gaza unrest that began in March last year, calling it "hostile, deceitful and biased."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel "rejects outright the report" by a UN commission of inquiry set up by the world body's Human Rights Council that alleged soldiers may have committed crimes against humanity.

"The council sets new records of hypocrisy and lies, out of obsessive hatred of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East," Netanyahu said on Twitter.

"It is Hamas which fires rockets at Israeli civilians, bombs and carries out terrorist activities during the violent demonstrations on the fence."

He said "soldiers will continue to firmly protect Israeli citizens against attacks by Hamas and terrorist organisations funded by Iran, which declares its intention to destroy Israel."

Foreign Minister Israel Katz called the report "hostile, deceitful and biased," labelling it "the theatre of the absurd."

"No institution can negate Israel's right to self-defence and its duty to defend its residents and borders from violent attacks," he said.

Katz 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."

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

"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 March 30 last year.

Demonstrators have been calling for Palestinian refugees to be allowed to return to their former homes now inside Israel, which Israeli officials say is akin to calling for their country's destruction.

They accuse Hamas of using the protests as cover for infiltrations and attacks, while rights groups and Palestinians say protesters posing little threat have been shot by Israeli snipers.

At least 251 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since March 2018, the majority shot during weekly border protests and others hit by tank fire or air strikes in response to violence from Gaza.

Two Israeli soldiers have been killed over the same period.

Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the blockaded Gaza Strip, have fought three wars since 2008.

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