Israel says it only shot at protesters charging Gaza border

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Israel says it only shot at protesters charging Gaza border
Palestinian protesters run for cover from teargas fired by Israeli soldiers during clashes with Israeli troops along the Gaza Strip border with Israel, east of Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip, Saturday, March 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s defense minister says troops acted appropriately by only firing on Palestinian protesters who charged toward Gaza’s border with Israel.

Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday that those who protested peacefully were not harmed, and he rejected accusations of excessive use of force in the mass protests Friday in which 15 Palestinians were killed. It was the area’s deadliest violence in four years.

Gaza’s ruling militant Hamas group has touted the protests as the launch of a six-week campaign against the territory’s decade-old blockade.

Israel says thousands of Palestinians approached the border, with hundreds engaged in acts of violence ranging from rock-throwing to hurling firebombs to opening fire at Israeli troops guarding the border.

The Israeli military has identified and named ten of the dead as militants from Hamas and other groups.