Israel may have committed war crimes in its efforts to crush Palestinian protests in the Gaza Strip, the United Nations (UN) has said.
UN investigators accused Israeli soldiers of repeatedly firing on civilians during protests at the fence that traps Palestinians inside Gaza.
A panel said it had found “reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot at journalists, health workers, children and persons with disabilities, knowing they were clearly recognisable as such”.
Some 266 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since weekly protests began at the border nearly a year ago, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza. They include at least 45 children.
The most recent victim, 15 year old Yusuf al-Dayeh, was shot in the chest with a live bullet during protests last month.
Palestinians have held mass protests at the border fence every Friday since March last year.
They are demanding an end to the siege that has trapped them in overcrowded conditions and caused severe shortages for nearly 12 years.
They also demand the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the land they were expelled from in 1948, now formally in Israel.
Israel responded to the protests with extraordinary violence, sending snipers with live ammunition and soldiers with rubber-coated steel bullets to put them down.
Israel finds the Palestinian demand for the right to return unacceptable because it sees the presence of Arabs inside its borders as a threat to its existence.
It was founded in 1948 through a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Palestinians to ensure it had a Jewish ethnic majority.
It uses racist laws and repressive measures to keep Palestinians out and ensure it maintains that ethnic majority today.
Yet despite the repression, Palestinians continue to resist.
Hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza have joined new “night confusion” protests, setting tyres on fire, chanting through loud speakers and marching on the border at night time.