U.S. says Hamas responsible for violence along Gaza-Israel border

While the U.S. State Department noted its concern over the “credible reports of excessive use of force,” the party responsible for the violence along the Israel-Gaza border remains the Islamist Hamas organization. According to U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert, “We are always concerned about credible reports of excessive use of force. I imagine that the Israeli Government will be taking a look at this. We always look forward to governments taking a look at their own actions. Let’s remember in large part what has gotten the Israelis and Palestinians to this point, and that is Hamas. And Hamas bears the ultimate responsibility for the misery of the people living in Gaza and in some of the surrounding areas. Hamas is reckless when it encourages people to show up, when it encourages people to fight, when it encourages young people to try to engage in violence. That is a very dangerous situation. / And then we go back to saying that Israel does have a right to defend itself. That’s U.S. policy and that hasn’t changed either.” This statement followed the most-deadly weekend along Israel’s Gaza frontier, after Hamas called on the enclave’s Palestinian population to demonstrate. In response to the call, thousands of Gazans participated in violent riots since Friday, burning tires and using the billowing thick smoke as a screen to hurl rocks and firebombs toward Israeli forces on the other side of the fence. The exceptionally violent demonstrations brought about a significant rise in civilian casualties and injuries, with the Hamas health ministry reporting ten Palestinians killed, including two children aged 11 and 14. In response to the allegations of excessive use of force, Israel accused Hamas of exploiting and endangering civilians by using the protests as cover for militant actions, which unfortunately brought about civilian casualties. Nevertheless, the Israeli military emphasized that it exercises full restraint and conducts itself in accordance with the rules of engagement dictated by Jerusalem. According to the rules of engagement, IDF soldiers may open fire at Palestinians’ knees, only if they breach security zones near the border in a way that poses a potential threat to life or to breaking through the fence into Israel.