[Palestinians attend a tent city protest along the Israel border with Gaza, March 30, 2018. (Photo: Reuters)]
Gaza (Palestine): At least nine Palestinians have been killed and about 1000 others injured during clashes with Israeli forces as thousands marched near Gaza's border with Israel in a major demonstration marking the 42nd anniversary of Youm al-Ard or Day of the Land.
Mohammed Najjar, 25, was shot in the stomach in a clash east of Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip, while Mahmoud Muammar, 38, and Mohammed Abu Omar, 22, were both shot dead in Rafah, the Palestinian health ministry said in a statement on Friday. The other five victims were identified as Ahmed Oudeh, 19, Jihad Freneh, 33, Mahmoud Saadi Rahmi, 33, Abdelfattah Abdelnabi, 22, and Ibrahim AbuShaar, 20.
Earlier on Friday, Omar Waheed Abu Samour, a farmer from Gaza, was also killed by Israeli artillery fire while standing on his land near Khan Younis, just hours ahead of the demonstrations. There has been no immediate confirmation from the Israeli army of the strike that killed Samour.
The Israeli military said that its troops had used “riot dispersal means and firing towards main instigators” and that some of the demonstrators were “rolling burning tires and hurling stones” at the border fence and at soldiers.
Ahead of the protests, called by Gaza’s Hamas rulers, Israel’s military said it doubled its standard troop level along the border, deploying snipers, special forces and paramilitary border police units, which specialize in riot control. Occupation forces also levelled Palestinian land along the border and setup large mounds of sand which can be used as barricades to hinder the movement of protesters.
Hamas has said that Friday’s activities would be peaceful and the chief Israeli military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, said Israel wants to avoid violence.
However, previous protests near the border fence have turned deadly, with Israeli soldiers firing live bullets at Palestinians burning tires, throwing stones or hurling firebombs. Manelis said the military will not allow the crowds to breach the fence on Friday or damage military infrastructure.
The sit-ins are seen as a new attempt by Hamas to break a crippling, decade-old Gaza border blockade by Israel and Egypt that has made it increasingly difficult for the Islamic militant group to govern. Other tactics over the years, including cross-border wars with Israel and attempts to reconcile with political rival Mahmoud Abbas, the West Bank-based Palestinian president, have failed to end Gaza’s isolation.
In the planned protest, Palestinians are setting up tent camps along the border, the first of a series of actions planned in Gaza in the coming weeks. The activities are to culminate on May 15, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s creation, with a march through the border fence. Protesters said the main message of the march was to call for the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
Palestinians commemorate the date as the anniversary of their mass displacement and uprooting during the 1948 Mideast war over Israel’s creation. The vast majority of Gaza residents are descendants of Palestinians who fled or were driven from communities in what is now Israel.
Meanwhile, Adalah, a legal centre for Palestinian rights in Israel, condemned the Israeli forces' use of force, calling it a violation of international law. "Live gunfire on unarmed civilians constitutes a brutal violation of the international legal obligation to distinguish between civilians and combatants," the group said in a statement.
It also said that it would launch an investigation to "demand those those found responsible for the killings be brought to justice".
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