The United Nations and the European Union have called for an independent investigation into the action of Israeli forces against a march by thousands of Palestinians along the Gaza border on Friday. Sixteen Palestinians were killed and more than 1,400 injured in clashes with Israeli forces, which involved live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas.

The military accused protestors of rolling burning tyres and throwing rocks and fire bombs towards them, while Palestine claimed the protests were peaceful. Friday was the deadliest day in Gaza since 2014.

Seventy more people were wounded when the Israeli military shot at them on Saturday, Reuters reported, quoting Palestinian officials. Thousands of people marched through the streets of Gaza on Saturday in the funerals for those who were killed. Gaza and West Bank observed a national day of mourning.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel was responsible for the violence, while Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised his Army and said his country was protecting its sovereignty and citizens.

Israel claimed 10 of those killed on Friday were militants, eight of them belonging to Islamist group Hamas. The military warned it could take action against “terrorist targets”, BBC reported.

International bodies respond

The European Union’s foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini on Saturday said the use of live ammunition by the Israeli military, “in particular”, needed an independent and transparent investigation.

“Freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are fundamental rights that must be respected,” she said. “All those concerned need to exercise restraint and avoid further violent escalation and any acts that could put civilians in danger.”

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged for a similar investigation, AP reported.

The March of Return

On Friday, some 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza began what they call the “March of Return”, a six-week-long protest demanding that refugees be allowed to return to their homes that are now in Israel. They have pitched five camps along the border with the support of Islamist group Hamas, prompting the Israel Defense Forces to “enforce a closed military zone” in the areas around Gaza.

The protest is scheduled to end on May 15, which Palestinians call Nakba (catastrophe) – it marks the day hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced during the conflict over the creation of Israel in 1948.