Israel says open-fire rules for Gaza unchanged for new protests

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Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday that open-fire rules for the Gaza border that saw Israeli forces kill 18 Palestinians last week during a mass protest will remain unchanged.

“If there are provocations, there will be a reaction of the harshest kind like last week,” Lieberman said on the eve of fresh protests expected on the Israeli-Palestinian border.

“We do not intend to change the rules of engagement,” the minister told public radio.

Last Friday, a protest by tens of thousands on the Gaza border led to clashes with Israeli forces.

In addition to the 18 Palestinians killed on Friday, two other Gazans have died since then.

Israel has faced calls for an independent investigation from the European Union and United Nations chief Antonio Guterres over Friday’s violence.

Israel has rejected the calls, saying its soldiers opened fire when necessary to prevent attacks, attempts to damage the fence and infiltrations.

Palestinians say protesters were fired on while posing no threat to soldiers.