Confrontation at Gaza security fence
Confrontation at Gaza security fenceFlash 90

The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday accused Israel of “shooting at Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip,” ignoring the deliberate provocations of Palestinian Arabs along the border fence.

A report by the group cited by AFP said that four Palestinian Arabs have been killed near the border fence since the beginning of 2014.

The organization cited UN data which also said more than 60 civilians were wounded by Israeli gunfire near the perimeter fence of the territory that is ruled by the Hamas terrorist group.

According to AFP, HRW’s report focused on seven incidents between January 2 and March 1, in which the four were killed and five others wounded, "none of whom posed a threat to the soldiers or others," the organization claimed.

HRW noted that "Palestinians living in the densely inhabited Gaza Strip use land near the fence with Israel for agriculture, collecting rubble, scrap metal, and other reusable materials, and recreation."

"Month after month, Israeli forces have wounded and killed unarmed Palestinians who did nothing but cross an invisible, shifting line that Israel has drawn inside Gaza's perimeter," Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East director, charged.

The organization ignored the fact that Gazans have constantly been provoking IDF soldiers stationed near the border fence.

These provocations usually take place on Fridays, when Arabs riot near the border fence and attack security forces with rocks.

The soldiers ask the rioters to move back but they ignore the calls and continue to approach the fence, forcing troops to open fire.

IDF Spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner did not challenge the facts in the HRW report, but slammed the report which he said "completely ignored the reality of the state of conflict we have with Gaza, the perimeter with which is a springboard for terrorism from the Strip."

"The statement ridicules human rights. This week alone we've had numerous attacks emerging from the immediate perimeter of the fence," he said, according to AFP.

"They don't magically arrive there," Lerner said of the perpetrators.

He also referred to the terror tunnels from Gaza and the rockets and missiles fired at southern Israel by Gaza terrorists, all of which were not mentioned in the HRW report.

In March, the IDF confirmed that it had uncovered a “highly advanced” tunnel leading from Gaza into Israel, denying Hamas’s claims that the tunnel was an old one.

Back in October, IDF soldiers discovered a tunnel, built by Gaza terrorists, that led from Gaza to an Israeli kibbutz.

Hamas later admitted that it was behind the tunnel and said that it “was made by the hand of the fighters of al-Qassam and they will not sleep in their efforts to hit the occupation and kidnap soldiers.”

Lerner said on Friday that "the 100-meter limit" from the border fence, which was agreed upon under the terms reached after an eight-day confrontation between Israel and Hamas in November 2012, was "known and widespread."

"People approaching the fence are putting themselves at risk," Lerner added, noting the army fires warning shots before aiming at people.

Nevertheless, HRW maintained in its report, "While firing warning shots may reduce the likelihood of shooting a civilian, a failure to heed warning shots does not turn a civilian into a lawful military target."

Lerner also implicitly accused Gaza's Hamas rulers of not preventing the bloody border incidents.

"In the past they've proven that when they want to prevent access to the fence they've actually acted against it and done that," he said, according to AFP.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)