Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday there were “no innocent people” in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip after 10 days of protests and clashes left 30 Palestinians dead.
“There are no innocent people in the Gaza Strip,” Lieberman told Israel’s public radio.
“Everyone’s connected to Hamas, everyone gets a salary from Hamas, and all the activists trying to challenge us and breach the border are Hamas military wing activists.”
Israel has faced mounting questions over its use of live fire after 10 days of protests and clashes along the Gaza Strip border in which its forces have killed 30 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s health ministry.
Violence spiked again on Friday, when clashes erupted as thousands protested along the border, and nine Palestinians, including a journalist, were killed.
On March 30, Israeli forces killed 19 Palestinians as a protest by tens of thousands led to clashes.
There have been no reported Israeli casualties.
Israel says it has only opened fire when necessary to stop damage to the border fence, infiltrations and attempted attacks.
It alleges Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip and with whom it has fought three wars since 2008, is seeking to use the protests as cover to carry out violence.
But rights groups have harshly criticized Israeli soldiers’ actions, and Palestinians say protesters are being shot while posing no threat to troops.
The European Union and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have called for an independent investigation, which Israel has rejected.
On Saturday, the European Union raised questions over whether Israeli troops engaged in “proportionate use of force.”