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7 Killed in Gaza as Palestinian Protesters Face Off With Israeli Soldiers

Israeli news outlets reported that Palestinians had built an ancient war machine — a trebuchet, or slingshot-like catapult — to hurl heavy stones or even burning tires at the Israeli side. The reports included photos of the trebuchet but there was no confirmation on Friday that it had been deployed.

The United Nations urged both sides to avoid violence and said there were “strong indications” that Israeli security forces had used excessive force last week in driving back protesters, which may have breached international law.

Elizabeth Throssell, a spokeswoman for the United Nations human rights office in Geneva, said the high casualty toll among protesters who were unarmed or did not pose a serious threat to security forces — and in some cases were running away from the fence — suggested Israeli troops may have used excessive force.

Some protesters had reportedly acted dangerously, but international law permits the use of lethal force only as a last resort in the face of an imminent threat of death or serious injury, she said. “An attempt to approach or cross the green-line fence by itself certainly does not amount to a threat to life or serious injury that would justify the use of live ammunition,” she said.

“If there is unjustified and unlawful recourse to firearms resulting in death, that may amount to willful killing and that’s a grave breach of the fourth Geneva Convention,” she added.

On Friday, despite the occasional crack of gunfire and whistle of bullets, which sent demonstrators running for cover, there was an eerily festive, almost carnival-like atmosphere on the periphery, with vendors selling food, drinks and flags. Israeli drones and surveillance balloons flew overhead, as did the occasional kite in the Palestinian national colors of red, black, white and green.

On the Israeli side, civilians sought vantage points with binoculars and cameras, straining to see the action from kibbutz watchtowers or outcroppings of farmland.

For much of the afternoon, thousands of Palestinians massed a few hundred yards from the fence, cheering and chanting like fans in a soccer stadium, applauding protesters who defied the Israelis, and jeering the Israelis’ firing of tear gas canisters, as if to say it couldn’t harm them. Some tried distracting Israeli snipers with mirrors reflecting the brilliant sun.

Again and again, as the sun sunk into the Mediterranean, came the sound of gunshots, the wail of sirens, the cheers in Arabic: “We are heading to Jerusalem with millions of martyrs.”

Source: NYT > World

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