By Azania post reporter
Palestinians have demanded that an independent probe be launched to investigate the Israeli military’s killing and wounding of protesters in Gaza as the death toll in the weeks-long rallies reached 35.
For a fourth week, several thousand people in Gaza staged protests on the border with Israel to protest its blockade of the territory and press for a "right of return" of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to what is now Israel.
Israeli troops shot dead four Palestinians on the Gaza-Israel border yersterday. Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN ambassador, called on the UN Human Rights Council to establish a commission to carry out the investigation.
He said his counterpart in Geneva will start the process early next week with initial consultations that will hopefully culminate in an emergency meeting of the rights council and approval of a resolution authorizing a body "to investigate these crimes."
"It seems that the Israeli occupying forces are not restraining themselves, they're not listening to anyone and they are continuing with this massacre," Mansour told reporters.
The yesterday’s casualties included a 15-year-old boy shot dead in northern Gaza, Palestinian health officials said, adding that 156 people were wounded by Israeli gunfire.
UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov wrote on Twitter: “It is outrageous to shoot at children! How does the killing of a child in Gaza today help peace? It doesn’t! It fuels anger and breeds more killing. Children must be protected from violence, not exposed to it.”
The planned six-week protest campaign reached its half-way point on Friday, which saw smaller crowds than in recent weeks. As the numbers peaked during the afternoon Israeli soldiers called out warnings in Arabic over loudspeakers to anyone who approached the border fence.
Black plumes of smoke from piles of burning tires billowed over the area, and stretcher-bearers rushed to carry the wounded to first aid posts.
The protest began on March 30, and has seen tent encampments spring up near the Israeli-imposed restricted zone along the 40km (25-mile) border fence.
The protest campaign, dubbed The Great March of Return, is leading up to May 15, when Palestinians mark Nakba Day, or the Day of Catastrophe, commemorating their displacement around the time of Israel’s founding in 1948.
It takes place at a time of growing frustration over the prospects for an independent Palestinian state. Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been stalled for several years and Israeli settlements in the occupied territories have expanded.
US President Donald Trump’s decision last year to recognize disputed Jerusalem as Israel’s capital further fueled Palestinian anger.
An investigation must be independent and transparent, Mansour stressed, as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, other countries, and most recently six independent human rights investigators have called for.