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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Palestinians: 2 wounded in Israeli border fire die

The latest deaths bring the toll from last week's killings by Israeli soldiers to 64

Wounded Palestinian men sit attend the funeral of Moein Al-Saai, who died of wounds he sustained protesting at the Israeli-Gaza border, during his funeral in Gaza city on May 19, 2018. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
Wounded Palestinian men sit attend the funeral of Moein Al-Saai, who died of wounds he sustained protesting at the Israeli-Gaza border, during his funeral in Gaza city on May 19, 2018. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Two Palestinians have died from their wounds after being shot on Monday by Israeli troops during protests in the Gaza Strip, the territory's health ministry said on Saturday.

The two men killed were 20-year-old Mohammed Mazen Alyan and 58-year-old Moein Abdel-Hamid Al Saai, the Hamas-run ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said Mr Alyan was wounded east of the Al Bureij refugee camp, while other medical sources reported Al Saai was wounded to the east of Gaza City.

The deaths bring to 61 the total number of Palestinians killed by Israeli gunfire on Monday, when thousands of Palestinians protested as the US officially moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Since March 30, Palestinian marchers have been demanding the right to return to their homes seized by Israel in the 1948 war surrounding the creation of the Jewish state.

A total of 118 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire on the border between the Gaza Strip and the Jewish State since then, according to authorities in Gaza, which is run by Hamas.

Israel says it has done everything it can to limit civilian casualties and has used lived ammunition only as a last resort.

The Israeli army accuses Hamas of using the cover of the demonstrations to approach and damage the border fence, including laying explosive devices and attacking soldiers, and insists its actions are necessary to defend the border and prevent mass infiltrations.

The latest deaths follow a decision by the United Nations Human Rights Body on Friday to launch a war crimes investigation into the deaths. The head of the UN body said the killings were "wholly disproportionate".

Addressing a special session of the UN Human Rights Council on the violence which has claimed more than 100 Gazan lives in six weeks, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein warned that "killing resulting from the unlawful use of force by an occupying power may also constitute wilful killings, a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention".

The resolution to send a commission of inquiry to investigate was rejected by the United States and Australia, but backed by 29 members of the 47-state UN forum. Another 14 countries, including Britain, Germany and Japan, abstained.

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Israel’s ambassador in Geneva, Aviva Raz Shechter, castigated the council for “spreading lies against Israel” during “five hours of ludicrous statements”.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al Maliki welcomed the UN decision and urged speedy implementation “to stop Israeli war crimes”.

The protesters' "actions alone do not appear to constitute the imminent threat to life or deadly injury which could justify the use of lethal force," Mr Al Hussein said.

He said there was "little evidence" of Israeli claims that it made an effort to minimise casualties.

“They [Gazans] are, in essence, caged in a toxic slum from birth to death; deprived of dignity; dehumanised by the Israeli authorities to such a point it appears officials do not even consider that these men and women have a right, as well as every reason, to protest,” he said as he opened the debate.

The Arab League also called for an international investigation into the killings at an emergency meeting in Cairo on Thursday.

Speaking at that meeting, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash condemned the Israeli occupation's use of excessive force against unarmed Palestinians.

The majority of the deaths in Gaza - nearly 60 - came on Monday as Palestinians protested against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.

"We warn against the negative repercussions of such a dangerous escalation and we call for international probe to hold those responsible for this massacre accountable," Dr Gargash said. "At the same time, we stress that the US decision to transfer the US Embassy to Jerusalem has complicated the situation."

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The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs also called on the international community to stop the violence against Palestinians and end Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories, state news agency Wam reported.

"We also slam the use of the veto by the US to undermine the Security Council from carrying out its duty to achieve a transparent and impartial probe towards the massacres committed by Israel against the Palestinian people. We stress that there is no security in the region without a just, permanent and comprehensive solution of the Palestinian cause based on the two-state solution," Dr Gargash said.

Friday's special session of the UN Human Rights Council came at the request of Palestine and the UAE, on behalf of Arab countries in the council. It discussed a draft resolution presented by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and backed by 47 UN member states, which calls for investigators to look into "all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law ... in the context of the military assaults on large scale civilian protests that began on 30 March 2018".

However, as the meeting was set to take place, the Israeli army on Friday disputed Palestinian accounts that a baby had died of tear gas inhalation during protests on the Gaza border on Monday.

Falsteen Al Jamal, the aunt of eight month old Leila who died from tear gas inhalation told The National: "Israeli soldiers fired a lot of tear gas. I was far away from the fences. I started to run I was so afraid."

Leila turned blue. She was pronounced dead before she had even reached the hospital. "They couldn't save her," said Ms Al Jamal.

However, Israel’s Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus dismissed Ms Al Jamal’s story as “another instance of Hamas fake news”.

A spokesman for the justice ministry in Gaza City said an investigation was being carried out into the death of Leila, who was buried on Tuesday, as is customary.

In occupied Jerusalem, meanwhile, 120,000 Palestinians prayed at the Al Aqsa Mosque, the first weekly prayers of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Friday prayers passed peacefully at the site, while outside the compound heavily armed police officers were deployed in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.

There were no restrictions on women crossing into Jerusalem, but men under 40 were prevented from crossing by Israel, which normally cites security concerns.