Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said Israel should be “condemned” for its response to the rioting along the Israeli-Gaza border on Monday, which resulted in some 60 Palestinian deaths.
In an interview with Al Jazeera reporter Mehdi Hasan for his Intercept podcast, Sanders was asked if he considers Israel’s response to the Gaza protestors as constituting “war crimes.”
“Do you believe, as many human rights groups—American, Israeli, Palestinian, European—are saying, that the IDF snipers shooting kids, people in wheelchairs, are those war crimes?” asked Hasan.
“Those are terrible actions,” Sanders said, while stopping short of calling them war crimes. “Instead of applauding Israel for its actions, Israel should be condemned. Israel has a right to security, but shooting unarmed protesters is not what it is about.”
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said nearly 60 Palestinians were killed in clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian rioters along the Israeli-Gaza border on Monday. Israel has blamed the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas for orchestrating the violent protests, which has seen Palestinians throwing Molotov cocktails, rocks and even planting bombs along the border fence in an attempt to infiltrate Israel. The White House has also put the onus of the deadly Gaza violence on Hamas.
“The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas,” White House spokesman Raj Shah told reporters at a press briefing on Monday. “Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response,” he added, suggesting that the clashes were “a gruesome and unfortunate propaganda attempt” orchestrated by Hamas leaders.
Sanders also tweeted about the situation unfolding in Gaza on Monday, saying Israel has no justification for firing on unarmed protestors.
“Over 50 killed in Gaza today and 2,000 wounded, on top of the 41 killed and more than 9,000 wounded over the past weeks. This is a staggering toll. Hamas violence does not justify Israel firing on unarmed protesters,” stated the senator.
The former Democratic presidential candidate, who is rumored to be considering another run in 2020, has been highly critical of Israel’s response to the situation in Gaza, which have seen weekly protests that have often turned deadly.
At the J Street Conference in mid-April, Sanders said that Israel had “massively overreacted” to Gaza protests.
“Though the overwhelming majority of these protestors were non-violent,” the Vermont lawmaker said, “we know that some of them were not, and when Israeli soldiers are in danger, we can all agree that they have a right to defend themselves. But I don’t think that any objective person can disagree that Israel has massively reacted to these demonstrations.”