Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday hailed Israeli troops amid deadly clashes with Palestinian protesters on the country’s southern border.
“Israel acts vigorously and with determination to protect its sovereignty and the security of its citizens,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
The prime minister’s comments came a day after more than a dozen Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire during mass marches along the Israeli-Gaza border, where Palestinians had gathered to protest the decade-old blockade of the territory.
The Israeli Defense Forces said that troops opened fire only when necessary, and claimed on Saturday that at least 10 of the Palestinians killed a day earlier were “known terrorists with track records of terrorist activity.”
At least 10 known terrorists with track records of terrorist activity were killed whilst carrying out acts of terror during the violent riots along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip on Friday March 30, 2018
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) March 31, 2018
While much of the violence had subsided by Saturday, groups of protesters still gathered along the fence between Israel and Gaza, where some threw rocks at Israeli soldiers, The Associated Press reported.
The protests have largely been spearheaded by Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza.
The demonstrations have been cast as a buildup to a massive march in May, when Israel will celebrate the 70th anniversary of its establishment. That date, May 15, is seen by Palestinians as the day they were forced out of ancestral lands.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry fired back on Saturday against claims that Israeli forces were improperly cracking down on freedom of expression and Palestinians’ right to protest, saying that Israel was simply trying to guard itself against terrorism.