Two Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli forces during the weekly Friday protests in the besieged Gaza Strip, according to officials.
Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesperson for the health ministry, said the two male demonstrators – aged 18 and 29 -were shot in separate incidents near the Israeli fence east of the Gaza Strip.
Jihad Harara was shot in the head east of Gaza City, while the older man, Nidal Shatat, was hit in the chest near the al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, al-Qidra wrote on Twitter.
At least 62 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli forces, al-Qidra said, adding that there were at least three instances in which medical personnel and ambulances were directly targeted by Israeli tear gas at the encampments set up along the fence.
Ali Jadallah, an Anadolu Agency photojournalist, was reportedly among those wounded and was transferred at a nearby hospital for treatment.
The Israeli army did not comment on the deaths but said “approximately 9,500 rioters and demonstrators” gathered in various locations, “hurling explosive devices, hard objects and rocks” at troops.
Troops were “firing in accordance with standard operating procedures”, a spokeswoman said.
‘Use of excessive force’
Also on Friday, the United Nations Human Rights Council condemned Israel’s “apparent intentional use of unlawful lethal and other excessive force” against civilian protesters in Gaza, and called for perpetrators of violations in the enclave to face justice.
On the final day of a four-week session, the Geneva-based forum adopted a resolution on accountability, brought by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation. The measure was backed by 23 states in favour, with eight voting against and 15 abstaining. One delegation was absent.
The resolution called for cooperating with a preliminary examination opened by the International Criminal Court in 2015 into alleged Israeli human rights violations.
The measure was based on a report by a UN inquiry which said that Israeli security forces may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in killing 189 Palestinians and wounding more than 6,100 at weekly protests last year.
“The targeting of civilians is a serious matter that should not be condoned,” Ibrahim Khraisi, Palestine’s ambassador said, citing the report’s findings. The toll included 35 Palestinian children, two journalists and medical workers, he added.
More than 250 protesters have been killed since Palestinians began holding regular demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel buffer zone in March of last year.
They also demand an end to Israel’s 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its roughly two million inhabitants of many basic commodities.