Gaza toll reaches 18, Israel rejects excessive force claims

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The Palestinian death toll in last week’s mass protest on the Gaza-Israel border rose to 18 on Monday, officials said, as Israel rejected allegations of unlawful use of lethal force against unarmed demonstrators.

More than 750 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli fire in Friday’s protest, according to Gaza health officials, making it the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 Israel-Hamas war.

Gaza’s Hamas rulers have not said if the final aim of protests, which are to continue off and on for six weeks, is an attempted mass breach of the border fence.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Sunday hinted at an escalation, saying last Friday’s protests had a “limit,” but that “next time, we won’t know where that line would be.”

Israel accused the Islamic militant Hamas of trying to attack its border under the guise of protests. Officials said Israel has a right to defend its border, and that troops were instructed to target what the army described as the “main instigators.”

However, the military’s open-fire policies came under more scrutiny as two amateur videos emerged purportedly showing two Palestinians being shot — one killed and one wounded — while not posing any apparent threat to soldiers.

In one video, a man later identified as Ibrahim Abu Shanab is seen kneeling on the ground in the first of two rows of worshippers Friday, facing the border fence. Suddenly, he stands up, limps a few meters (yards), collapses and his carried away by young men who shout “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is Great.”

Adli Abu Taha, who filmed the scene on his mobile phone, told The Associated Press that Abu Shanab had thrown stones close to the fence before joining the group for Friday prayers. The incident took place east of the southern Gaza city of Rafah, and medics said Abu Shanab was shot in the leg.

In another video that spread on social media, a young man later identified as Abdelfatah Abdelnabi, is seen being fatally shot from behind while carrying a tire as he ran away from the border.

Majd al-Omari, who filmed the incident on his smartphone, said that just before the shooting, Abdelnabi had been involved in burning tires near the fence.

The Israeli military accused Hamas on Sunday of releasing videos that were incomplete, edited or “completely fabricated,” but did not elaborate.

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