Israeli military finds two explosive devices planted on Gaza border

The UN human rights office said on Friday it has indications that Israeli forces used "excessive force" during a deadly crackdown on protesters last week in Gaza and expressed concerns about possible further violence.

"The IDF uses means such as warnings, riot dispersal means, and as a last resort firing live rounds in a precise, measured way", it said Saturday.

The deaths brought to 21 the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire over the past week, including 15 who had been involved in the protests. "I know the situation is very, very hard", Israeli farmer Daniel Rahamim said about economic hardship in Gaza, the Palestinian enclave ruled by Hamas, an Islamist group that advocates Israel's destruction.

Groups of Palestinians in Gaza lit hundreds of tires on fire last Friday during the second weekend of a six-week-long planned protest in the border region between Israel and the coastal enclave.

Friday's protests marked one week since the beginning of the "Great March of Return", a weeks-long protests in which nearly 1.3 million of Gaza's 2 million inhabitants who are refugees are demanding their right to return to their original homelands. It has also devastated Gaza's economy, made it virtually impossible for people to enter and exit the territory, and left residents with just a few hours of electricity a day.

While political leaders brushed aside complaints, on Sunday the IDF said it would investigate its own conduct in the confrontations.

Haaretz said the Israeli army is using live fire because it fears a massive breach of the aging Gaza fence.

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It also said explosive devices and firebombs were thrown, adding that soldiers opened fire "in accordance with the rules of engagement".

Israel 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.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society, which has established five advanced medical posts near various protest sites, also warned of a shortage of medical supplies and of personal protective equipment for their 400-person team.

Israel says it has no selection, accusing Hamas of attempting to smuggle weapons and supplies that may turn into weapons into the territory. Hundreds more suffered other injuries, including tear gas inhalation, the officials said.

"The circumstances in which journalists were allegedly hit by Israeli Defence Force fire are not familiar to the IDF, and are being looked into", it said in a statement.

Yariv Oppenheimer, a member of Peace Now, a non-government organisation in Israel, lamented the deaths and urged the Israeli army to exercise restraint. "Palestinian photographer Yasser Mourtaja was wearing a vest marked "Press": he was obviously the victim of an intentional shot", said Christophe Deloire, the Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), on Twitter.

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