Alastair Burt, the Minister for the Middle East, has said he is “appalled" by the deaths of 15 Palestinians in clashes with Israeli troops at the Gaza border on Friday - as Israel resisted international pressure for an independent inquiry.
Hundreds of Palestinians were also reported injured at the start of what is said to have been intended to be to be six weeks of peaceful protests leading up to the 70th anniversary of the creation of Israel.
Both the United Nations and the European Union have called on Israel to accept an investigation, although the United States blocked a draft UN Security Council condemning Israel for the fatalities.
In a statement yesterday, Mr Burt said there was an “urgent need to establish the facts, including why such a volume of live fire was used and what role Hamas played in the violence.
“But the most important thing is to ensure that there is no repeat of what happened, with all sides committing to peaceful protest, restraint and international law.”
But Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Defence Minister, told Israel Army Radio yesterday, “As for any commission of inquiry, there won’t be one.”
Israeli soldiers had done “what was necessary,” he said. “I think all of our soldiers deserve a medal.”
Thousands of Palestinians, responding to calls from their leadership, had set up a protest camp a few hundred metres from the border with Israel.
Israel said it reacted after demonstrators surged forward towards the fence, throwing stones and petrol bombs.
Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, said the world should not be deceived by a “well-organised and violent terror gathering”.
Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, visiting the demonstration on Sunday, said, “there is no peace with the enemy and any attempt or plan will not compel us to make peace with them”.
The bloodshed was the worst in Gaza since the war with Israel four years ago.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit back after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called him a “terrorist”."The most moral army in the world will not be lectured to on morality from someone who for years has been bombing civilians indiscriminately," Mr Netanyahu said on Twitter."Apparently this is how they mark April 1 [April Fool’s Day] in Ankara," he added.
The Board of Deputies said on Friday: “Alarming developments at Gaza border where Hamas once again using civilians – inc[luding] children – as pawns.”