Palestinians stream to Gaza border for third week of mass protests

Apr 14, 2018, 11:59
Palestinians stream to Gaza border for third week of mass protests

A Palestinian was killed and more than 200 others wounded during clashes with Israeli troops as thousands gathered in protest along the Gaza-Israel border on Friday, Gaza officials said.

Israeli soldiers have been shooting teargas and live bullets from throughout the boundary fencing.

At least 30 Palestinians were wounded by Friday afternoon, the health ministry in Gaza said, with one shot in the head.

In a related development, hundreds of Palestinians turned out for the funeral of Abdullah Mohamed al-Shehri, a 28-year-old Palestinian who was martyred Thursday after having been struck by cross-border Israeli gunfire.

Smaller groups moved closer to the fence, throwing stones, torching tires and burning large Israeli flags.

An Israeli military spokesman its troops were "responding with riot dispersal means while also firing in accordance with the rules of engagement".

Palestinian demonstrators carry part of the Israeli barbed wire they removed during clashes with Israeli troops at a protest demanding the right to return to their homeland, at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Gaza City, April 13, 2018.

The marches have been organised by Hamas, but large turnouts on two preceding Fridays were also driven by desperation among the territory's 2 million residents.

The protests, planned to last six weeks, are calling for Palestinian refugees to be allowed to return to their former homes that are now inside Israel - which Israelis say essentially amounts to calling for the country's destruction.

According to the Gaza health ministry, since the start of the protests, over 30 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,300 got wounds.

Rights groups have described the Israeli military's open-fire regulations as unlawful, saying they permit soldiers to use potentially lethal force against unarmed protesters.

In northern Gaza, a large Israeli flag was burned that had earlier been set on the ground for protesters to walk over. That day will mark the 70th anniversary of Israel's establishment - an event Palestinians refer to as the "Nakba" or "Catastrophe".

The Israeli military has argued that Gaza militant groups are trying to turn the border area into a combat zone, and said it has a right to defend its sovereign border. "If we are going to die, then let it not be in vain", said Ahmed, who refused to give his full name, fearing Israeli reprisals. One path toward lifting the blockade would be to have Hamas' political rival, West Bank-based Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, take over the Gaza government, but recent Egypt-led talks on such a deal appear to have run aground. He said the Israeli military is "operating against it (Hamas) with determination and according to global law".

Israeli media reports have said Egypt, one of only two Arab countries to have signed a peace treaty with the Jewish state, had been negotiating with Hamas to seek to calm the crisis, but there has been no confirmation. "An order to open live fire at unarmed protesters is manifestly unlawful", it said.