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What Is the Gaza Fence and Why Has It Set Off Protests Against Israel?

May 16, 2018

Is deadly force at the fence defensible?

While Israeli authorities have justified the military’s use of deadly force, many international monitoring groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have condemned it. A number of countries at the United Nations have asked for an independent inquiry into the deaths.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said that defending the border fence with lethal force was necessary.

“I don’t know of any army that would do anything differently if you had to protect your border against people who say, ‘We’re going to destroy you, and we’re going to flood into your country,’” Mr. Netanyahu told CBS News.

Other Israelis have said that if thousands of angry Palestinians breached the Gaza fence, the outcome would be far bloodier.

The Israeli military maintains it is only targeting those instigating violence, and has sought to use nonlethal deterrents — including drones that drop tear gas — to counter the protests.

American officials have backed Israel’s actions. Heather Nauert, the State Department spokeswoman, said “Israel has a right to defend itself,” while Nikki R. Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, said Israel had responded with “restraint.”

United Nations human rights officials have disputed that view. Michael Lynk, the special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, said the killings on Monday reflected a “blatant excessive use of force by Israel” and likened them to “an eye for an eyelash.”

Mr. Lynk said that protesters appeared to pose no credible threat to Israeli military forces on the Israeli side. Under humanitarian law, he said, the killing of unarmed demonstrators could amount to a war crime, and he added that “impunity for these actions is not an option.”