Netanyahu Praises Israeli Troops After They Kill 16 Palestinian Protesters

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has praised Israeli troops, a day after they killed at least 16 Palestinian protesters at the border with Gaza.

In a twitter message he thanked soldiers for allowing the nation to celebrate the Passover holiday. He wrote: “Well done to our soldiers. Israel acts vigorously and with determination to protect its sovereignty and the security of its citizens.”

The Independent reports: Israel, as it routinely does, said its soldiers had only fired in self defence and said there were efforts by Palestinians to break through the fence that separates Gaza from the rest of the country.

But Palestinians accused Israel of using disproportionate force, saying the soldiers opened fire on protesters who did not pose a threat. Human rights groups questioned Israel’s use of live fire.

UN chief Antonio Guterres called for an “independent and transparent investigation”, as did European Union diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas declared Saturday a day of national mourning and in a speech said he held Israel fully responsible for the deaths.

The Associated Press said thousands of Palestinians attended funerals for 14 of those killed – two were buried on Friday – with mourners holding Palestinian flags and some chanting “revenge” and firing into the air. The protests were mainly organised by Hamas, the group which won power in Gaza and which it said was the start of a six-week-long protest campaign against a stifling decade-old blockade of the territory.

Protests are aiming to culminate in a large border march on May 15, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding.