GAZA BORDER: A Palestinian was martyred 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.
Palestinians hurled stones and burning tyres near the frontier fence, where Israeli army sharpshooters are deployed. Some in the crowd threw firebombs and an explosive device and tried cross into Israel, according to the Israeli military.
Palestinian medical officials said Israeli troops opened fire on the demonstrators, martyring one and wounding 220.
An Israeli military spokesman said troops were being confronted by rioters and responded “with riot dispersal means while also firing in accordance with the rules of engagement”.
Palestinians had arrived en masse at tented camps near the frontier as a protest dubbed “The Great March of Return” – evoking a longtime call for refugees to regain ancestral homes in what is now Israel – moved into its third week.
Israeli troops have martyred 31 Gaza Palestinians and wounded hundreds since the protests began, drawing international criticism of the lethal tactics used against them.
On Friday, groups of youths waved Palestinian flags and burnt hundreds of tyres and Israeli flags near the fenced-off border after Friday prayers. 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”.
Israel has declared a no-go zone close to the Gaza border fence.
No Israelis have been killed during the demonstrations, and human rights groups say the Israeli military has used live fire against demonstrators who pose no immediate threat to life.
Israel says it is doing what it must to defend its border, and to stop any of the protesters getting across the fence.
The planned six-week protest has revived a longstanding demand for the right of return of Palestinian refugees to towns and villages from which their families fled, or were driven out, when the state of Israel was created 70 years ago.
The protest began on March 30, and is expected to culminate on May 15.