More Palestinians wounded at Gaza-Israel border protests

Saul Bowman
April 14, 2018

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.

Islam Herzallah, 28, died in hospital after being shot by Israeli troops east of Gaza City, the Health Ministry said.

The protests since March 30 have posed a challenge to Israel, which has dismissed criticism of its use of live fire, saying its rules of engagement are necessary and will not change.

Many protesters left for midday prayers but larger numbers are expected to gather in five spots along the border on Friday afternoon. Groups moved nearer burning flags that were large, torching tires and projecting rocks.

IDF troops are responding with riot dispersal means and are firing in accordance with the rules of engagement.

Palestinians are still streaming to tent camps along Gaza's border with Israel for its third of what are to function as mass protests before mid-May.

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.

Demonstrators demand that Palestinian refugees be granted the "right of return" to their towns and villages in historical Palestine from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.

Rights groups have branded the Israeli military's open-fire regulations as unlawful, saying they permit soldiers to use potentially lethal force against unarmed protesters. At one camp east of Gaza City, youths carried on their shoulders a coffin wrapped in an Israeli flag bearing the words "The End of Israel".

Sumaya Abu Awad, 36, who attended the protest with her three daughters and son, said, "I am not afraid of death because there is no life in Gaza already".

That is the day Palestinians will mark the 70th anniversary of the "Nakba" or "Catastrophe", when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced amid violence culminating in war between newly created Israel and its Arab neighbours in May 1948. 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.

Organizers call on the demonstrators to burn Israeli flags and raise the Palestinian ones.

Israel claimed he was a paid member of Hamas, but produced no evidence. He said the Israeli military is "operating against it (Hamas) with determination and according to worldwide law". It has said that soldiers fire live bullets as a last resort, in a "precise and measured manner".

Another Israeli group, Breaking The Silence, published a statement by five former snipers in the Israeli military who said they were "filled with shame and sorrow" over the recent incidents in Gaza.

The Israeli rights group B'Tselem said on Friday that open-fire policy must not be dictated by worst case scenarios, such as a feared mass breach of the border.

The five ex-snipers in Friday's statement were identified by name.

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