'No innocent people in Gaza' says Israeli defence minister
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Sunday there were "no innocent people" in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip after Israeli soldiers shot and killed 30 Palestinians during 10 days of protests.
"There are no innocent people in the Gaza Strip," Lieberman told Israel's public radio.
"Everyone's connected to Hamas, everyone gets a salary from Hamas, and all the activists trying to challenge us and breach the border are Hamas military wing activists."
Israel has faced mounting questions over its use of live fire after 10 days of protests along the Gaza Strip border during which its forces have killed 30 Palestinians and injured hundreds with live fire and tear gas, according to Gaza's health ministry.
Violence spiked again on Friday when thousands of protesters returned to the border. Nine Palestinians were shot and killed by Israeli forces and at least 1,060 were wounded, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza.
The dead included Palestinian video journalist Yasser Murtaja. The 30-year-old father was shot in the abdomen by an Israeli sniper while covering the protests despite wearing a flak jacket labelled "Press".
Also among the dead was 15-year-old Hussein Mohammed Madi from Gaza City. Madi was killed east of Gaza City by an expanding dum-dum bullet, the ministry said.
There have been no reported Israeli casualties.
Israel says it has opened fire only when necessary to stop damage to the border fence, infiltrations and attempted attacks.
But rights groups have harshly criticised Israeli soldiers' actions, and Palestinians say protesters are being shot while posing no threat to troops.
'We are always targeted by Israeli forces'
The Israeli military accused the "approximately 10,000 Palestinians” who attended of “rioting in five locations along the border with the Gaza Strip".
They added that "several attempts have been made to damage and cross the security fence under the cover of the smokescreen".
Everyone's connected to Hamas, everyone gets a salary from Hamas
- Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli Defence Minister
Palestinians burned hundreds of tyres in a bid to obscure the vision of Israeli snipers lined up on the border between Israel and Gaza.
"We have heard many warnings about using burning tyres, but we have no other options to express our anger and our right of return," demonstrator Said Ayman Hamdan told MEE on Friday.
"Whatever we use, we are always targeted by Israeli forces. So we use tyres that will misguide the Israeli’s gunshots, as we are peaceful protesters. We needed something to protect us from Israeli brutality."
Images on social media showed Israeli security forces deploying fans in a bid to remove the smoke and clear its vision of the border.
On 30 March, Israeli forces killed 19 Palestinians as tens of thousands of protesters gathered at the Israeli border.
The following day, Israel’s military said in a tweet that "Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed".
The tweet was later deleted.
Israel alleges that Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip and with which it has fought three wars since 2008, is seeking to use the protests as cover to carry out violence.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the European Union have called for an independent investigation into Israel’s use of force, which Israel has repeatedly rejected.
On Saturday, the European Union raised questions over whether Israeli troops engaged in "proportionate use of force".