Israel threatens to step up response amid Gaza violence

Demonstrators shout slogans and hold Palestinian flags during'Great Return March at Israeli border

Rights groups condemned Israel's excessive use of force against protesters, who were participating in "The Great March of Return", a weeks-long planned protest during which Gazans have demanded their right to return to their original homelands inside present day Israel.

Israel accused the Islamic militant Hamas of trying to attack its border under the guise of protests.

At least 15 Palestinians were killed and more than 1,000 injured during the Friday clashes along Israel's southern border with Gaza.

Hamas said the lack of a resolution from the Security Council about the border clashes due to the USA rejection showed that Washington is "fully biased" for Israel and said it was "encouraging Israel to commit more violence and terrorism against Palestinian children".

It said there were attempts to damage the fence and infiltrate Israel, while alleging there was also an attempted gun attack against soldiers along the border.

In Friday's confrontations, large crowds gathered near the fence, with smaller groups of protesters rushing forward, throwing stones and burning tires.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Sunday hinted at an escalation, saying last Friday's protests had a "limit", but that "next time, we won't know where that line would be".

On Friday, the United States blocked a UN Security Council statement that reaffirmed "the right to peaceful protest" and called for an "independent and transparent investigation" into the Israeli violence.

In an interview, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel would not cooperate with a United Nations inquiry if there were one. Troops had followed strict rules of engagement and protesters were putting themselves in "harm's way" in a unsafe area. It said another man is missing.

The IDF has beefed up security near the Gaza Strip border fence, just days after 17 Palestinian protesters were killed in violent clashes with Israeli forces that erupted during Friday's Hamas-led "March of Return".

Rights groups say shooting Palestinians who do not pose a threat to soldiers' lives is unlawful.

The Palestinian Health Ministry has so far reported 16 dead, including Arkab, and over 800 wounded from live Israeli army gunfire, including 154 in the head, 52 in the chest and back and 38 in the abdomen. Health Ministry ambulances also evacuated some of the wounded to hospitals.

Many Palestinians in Gaza are descendants of those who were displaced in 1948.

The rallies were the beginning of a six-week protest that culminates May 15 - the day Palestinians call Nakba, or Catastrophe, when Israel was founded.

Gaza's continued border closure has made it increasingly hard for Hamas to govern.

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