Renewed Gaza border protest heats up


Smoke emanated in Gaza as mostly young men were expected to push towards the Israeli border.Hundreds of Palestinians have gathered along the Gaza border, many burning tyres as they girded themselves against potential violence, a week after clashes with Israeli forces saw the region’s single bloodiest day in years.

Pillars of black smoke emanated from the Gaza Strip as mostly young men were expected to push towards the Israeli border fence, in an action likely to incur army fire.

Three Palestinians were injured in different locations by Israeli fire by early afternoon, the Gaza Health Ministry said.

“Israeli army troops are responding with riot dispersal means, and fire in accordance with the rules of engagement,” the army said.

Palestinians camped along the border said they planned to set thousands of tyres ablaze and use the thick smoke and mirrors to blind and confuse Israeli army snipers.

Israel had warned that it had not changed its policy of firing on Palestinians who approach the Gaza-Israel border fence, saying that the protests are a mask for Hamas to carry out attacks.

Human rights groups criticised Israel’s use of live fire as disproportionate to the threat posed by Palestinians throwing rocks, burning tyres and lobbing Molotov cocktails.

Multiple videos from last week, which the Israeli army rejected as “Hamas’s propaganda,” appear to show Palestinians being shot while not posing an immediate threat.

Since last Friday, 22 Palestinians have died from Israeli fire. The majority of the fatalities occurred during the Gaza border protest, while hundreds more were injured.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and others have called for an independent investigation into the deaths, while Israeli officials have defended army actions.

Israel has said that a some of the killed Palestinians fired on army positions and the majority of them were affiliated with Hamas’ armed wing and other militant groups in the coastal enclave.

The army has defended its use of force by saying army troops were responding to riots and targeted what it said were the “main instigators.”

Palestinians are staging a six-week protest, dubbed the Great March of Return, to call for a return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants who fled or were expelled from their homes in present-day Israel in the 1948 war that marked Israel’s creation.

Israel has said that Hamas, the Islamist group which much of the West considers a terrorist organisation, is using the protests as a distraction to carry out attacks on Israeli border towns and security infrastructure.

Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 and since fought three wars with Israel that have crippled Gaza’s economy. The coastal enclave has an over 40 per cent unemployment rate and faces a dire humanitarian situation exacerbated by an over decade-long blockade by Israel and Egypt.

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