UN Decries Israel’s Excessive Use of Force in Gaza

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Palestinian demonstrators clash with the Israeli security forces along the Gaza-Israel border. AFP photo

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said Friday that Israel must stop the excessive use of force by its security forces along the Gaza border and must hold to account those responsible for the many deaths and injuries sustained by Palestinians in the past month.

"The loss of life is deplorable, and the staggering number of injuries caused by live ammunition only confirms the sense that excessive force has been used against demonstrators – not once, not twice, but repeatedly," Zeid said in a statement.

He said that in the past four weeks, 42 Palestinians had been killed and more than 5,500 wounded along the fence in Gaza, with no reports of Israeli casualties.

Israel's Foreign Ministry said it did had no immediate comment on Zeid's statement. The government has said previously that it is doing what is necessary to stop the border fence being breached.

International law permits the use of lethal force in cases of "extreme necessity", but it was hard to see how stones or Molotov cocktails thrown from a great distance at heavily protected security forces could constitute such a threat, Zeid said.

"Warnings by the United Nations and others have seemingly gone unheeded, as the approach of the security forces from week to week does not seem to have changed," he stated.

The death toll includes 35 people killed during demonstrations as part of the "Great March of Return" – evoking a longtime call for refugees to regain ancestral homes in what is now Israel -- and appear to have been unarmed and no imminent threat to Israeli security forces, the statement said.

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