Saturday, Mar 23, 2019

Fresh clashes erupt along Gaza-Israel border as Palestinians march again

Fresh clashes erupt along Gaza-Israel border as Palestinians march again
06 Apr

At least seven people were killed Friday as fresh clashes broke out between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces along the Israel-Gaza border, Palestinian health officials in Gaza said.

Israeli troops fired live rounds against Palestinians along the border fence, the Israeli military said, a week after violence led to the bloodiest day in Gaza since 2014.

Seven people including a teenager were shot and killed in eastern Gaza on Friday, the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza said in a statement.

More than 1,000 people were injured, at least 25 seriously, the ministry said. Dozens of the injured were treated near the border fence by Red Crescent field medics. Twelve women and 48 children were among the injured, the ministry said.

Tensions had been building on both sides of the Gaza-Israel border ahead of what some Gazans alternately dubbed "Friday of Fire" or "Friday of Tires," the second in a sequence of marches planned through mid-May.

Israeli troops are responding with "riot dispersal means" and live fire "in accordance with the rules of engagement" at Palestinians who "have been rioting in five locations" since Friday morning, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) statement said. Troops are also using water cannon to put out fires generated by burning tires.

The IDF also said several attempts were made to cross the border fence and said Palestinians also attempted to "carry out terror attacks, including hurling of explosive devices, firebombs and to damage" the fence under the cover of the smoke.

It tweeted a video of what purportedly showed people attempting to cut the fence.

Israeli military and officials have repeatedly said they will not allow any breach of the fence, and that those who do not abide by the rules of engagement will be shot.

In a briefing Thursday, IDF spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said Israel would not allow what he called "violent disturbances on the fence under the guise of a civilian march."

Israel blames Hamas and Islamic Jihad for the violence, and warned it will strike deep inside Gaza if provoked.

Mahmoud al-Zahar, Hamas' top leader in Gaza threatened Israel Friday, saying Hamas will hit Israel if Israel strikes inside Gaza.

On the movement's website, Hamas said families were being compensated for the deaths and injuries of their relatives. $3,000 will be given to the family members of each person killed, and between $200-$500 will be given as compensation for the families of the injured.

Ahead of the march, thousands of tires were gathered to be set on fire on the Gaza side of the border, with the aim of creating curtains of black smoke to obscure the sights of Israeli snipers. The hashtag #FridayofTires is also gaining popularity.

UN Secretary General António Guterres called Thursday for all parties to exercise restraint. "I particularly urge Israel to exercise extreme caution with the use of force in order to avoid casualties," he said in a statement. "Civilians must be able to exercise their right to demonstrate peacefully."

The Palestinian envoy to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, said he was pushing for Guterres to pursue an "independent, transparent" investigation into those "responsible for killing and injuring Palestinian protesters."

A UN Security Council statement that called for an independent inquiry into last Friday's violence in Gaza was blocked by the United States on Saturday.

The goal of the "March of Return" protests, Palestinians say, is to cross the border fence and return to their lands, which became Israel seven decades ago.

Last Friday marked Land Day, when Palestinian land was confiscated by Israel in 1976.

The day quickly turned into the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 war as Palestinian protesters and the Israeli military clashed along the fence. Thousands of Palestinians had marched to Gaza's border with Israel.

The total death toll in Gaza violence since last Friday is 29.

Israel holds Hamas responsible for the events in Gaza, and says most of those killed are "known terror activists" from Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Palestinians and human rights organizations accuse Israel of using excessive and illegal force on what they described as peaceful protesters.

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