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UN Chief calls for Gaza violence probe

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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres wants an independent investigation into the violence in Gaza.

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01st-Apr-2018       
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AP, United Nations :
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Friday for an independent investigation into deadly clashes in Gaza between Palestinians and Israeli troops, while Security Council members urged restraint on both sides.
The council didn't decide on any action or joint message after an emergency meeting Friday evening. Kuwait convened it hours after the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 cross-border war between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules the coastal strip.
Fifteen people were killed and more than 750 wounded by Israeli fire as thousands of Palestinian protesters marched to Gaza's border with Israel, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. The Israeli military said that thousands of Palestinians threw stones and rolled burning tires toward troops, that Palestinian gunmen fired toward soldiers in one incident and that militants were trying to conduct attacks under the cover of protests.
Guterres wants "an independent and transparent investigation" into the violence, spokesman Farhan Haq said.
Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour said he was disappointed the Security Council didn't coalesce to condemn what he called a "heinous massacre" of peaceful demonstrators, or to support his call to provide protection for Palestinian civilians.
"We expect the Security Council to shoulder its responsibility" and "defuse this volatile situation, which clearly constitutes a threat to international peace and security," Mansour said.
Kuwait requested the meeting to discuss the unraveling situation in Gaza, where Palestinians said Israeli fire killed 16 people in the conflict's deadliest single day since the 2014 Gaza war.
"There is fear that the situation might deteriorate in the coming days," said assistant UN secretary general for political affairs, Taye-Brook Zerihoun, urging maximum restraint.
Britain and the United States expressed regret that the timing of the meeting-the first night of Passover-meant Israeli officials could not attend. Leading ambassadors sent deputies in their place.
"It's vital that this Council be balanced in its approach," a US diplomat told the meeting. "We should have found an arrangement for all parties to participate tonight," he added.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of life today," the diplomat added. "Bad actors who use protests as a cover to incite violence endanger innocent lives," he added.
"The risk of escalation is very real," the French representative said. "There is the possibility of a new conflict in the Gaza Strip."
In a written statement before the meeting, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, blamed Hamas for the violence.
The violence broke out as tens of thousands of Gazans marched near the Israeli border to demand that the right of return for Palestinian refugees who fled or were expelled since the creation of Israel.
Israeli troops used tear gas and live fire to force back Palestinians who approached the heavily fortified border fence.

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